Our View: Tire disposal issues more than just a local problem

When Arkansas bureaucrats can’t even keep track of the quarter of million “poor” people taking advantage of the multibillion-dollar Medicaid subsidy program what makes anyone think they can properly track where old tires end up? Now, we’re being told that while we have been forking over disposal fees when we purchase new tires for our vehicles and some tire stores, such as what local businessman Marvin Steele pays thousands of dollars on tire disposal, many of them are not being recycled, illegally dumped or find their way into our county landfills. While Steele and most other tire store operators are abiding by the law, and their customers are paying as much as $2 to $5 per tire for disposal fees, the bewildered state workers with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality say a better system and much more tax dollars are needed to properly track where old tires end up. For goodness sakes, West Memphis is a prime example of illegal tire dumping, a city where officials are struggling to clean up their waste and identify violators bit with little success. Let’s face it, this is just another problem our state lawmakers are facing and a far cry from ranking on top of the priority list of serious and costly issues, but by the same token, a good example of lack of governmental efficiency and use of our tax dollars. During a recent meeting of the state House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor committees, lawmakers were informed of the flaws in the state’s waste tire management program and the need for greater supervision and additional regulations tracking where old tires end up. It certainly doesn’t comes as a big surprise to learn that the state charges more than its neighbors, sees worse outcomes that those states and is plainly unable to withhold money from waste tire districts that may not be operating properly or efficiently. What drew our attention to this latest example of government inefficiency was Steele, the owner of four stores in Arkansas and Tennessee that sell tires, and a former state legislator from West Memphis, told the committee some companies charge tire dealers to dispose of tires but then dump them illegally in ditches or rural areas to avoid disposal fees. Steele, who has shops in West Memphis, Marion and Marianna, said he spent $16,000 disposing of tires through November because they have to be transported to Fort Smith. But he’s spent $1,900 so far this year on tire disposal from his two shops in Memphis. He says he can’t take all his tires to Tennessee, however, because that state charges extra for tires brought in from out of state. “This thing has been going on for 20 to 25 years, and it’s not getting any better,” Steele said. It was Steele’s suggestion to the lawmakers that they create a workable manifest system in which companies would report what they did with the tires to improve recycling rates. He also said it would help if other types of tires besides those for passenger cars and trucks were subject to the environmental fee. It came as a surprise to us to learn that while owners of passenger cars and trucks have to fork over $2 to $5 per tire, there is no fee attached to the sale of motorcycle tires or tires used on agricultural equipment. So when tire dealers, such as Steele, attempt to dispose of tires at district collection sites, those sites charge a fee. The problem is each of the state’s 10 waste tire districts are managed differently and the legitimate question was raised, would it be more beneficial if there was just one centralized collection point. If this problem is going to be solved, which we would think could be done very easily, then the ideas of centralization and others should be seriously considered.

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