HARTFORD – Connecticut towns hailed the state House for approving a bill on Wednesday aimed at addressing the persistent problem of tires dumped on roadsides, parks and rivers, but some lawmakers questioned whether it would actually curb tire dumping.
The bill, if approved by the state Senate, would take the $5 customers currently pay to recycle tires and give it to a new “stewardship organization” made up of tire manufacturers, dealers and recyclers, that would be responsible for recycling used tires.
State Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, co-chair of the Environment Committee, said the bill aims to give customers a place to bring their old tires, and municipalities a place to bring illegally dumped tires they’ve collected for free.
It also aims to give the state transparency into the fees collected for tire recycling, which Gresko said “don’t have any eyes on” them right now. And it would try to boost the secondary market for recycled tires by directing DEEP to study using tires in asphalt.
“Anywhere between 1 and 5 percent of [the 3.5 million tires sold in Connecticut] find their way out of the current system and into rivers, into our municipalities,” Gresko said. “That equates to anywhere between 35,000 and 100,000 tires annually that many of our municipal leaders who have contacted us in favor of the bill have to pay for.”
The bill passed the House by a 101-43 vote, with six Democrats opposed and seven Republicans in favor, drawing praise from the Connecticut Council of Small Towns. COST Executive Director Betsy Gara said in a statement that illegally dumped tires attract mosquitoes and other insects, and can harm drinking water and aquatic life when dumped in streams and reservoirs.
“Connecticut’s towns and cities face increased costs to remove and properly dispose of tires discarded along roadways, in fields, forests and streams. Discarded tires are not only an eyesore, but they can also create public health risks in our communities,” she said.
While Gresko said Connecticut would be the first state in the country to implement an extended producer responsibility program for tires, Gara said it mirrors existing programs to ensure electronics mattresses and paint are disposed properly.
Connecticut was an early adopter of producer responsibility for mattresses, and the idea is similar for tires: Collect a fee upfront when the product is purchased and give that money to the manufacturers to handle the cost of recycling. DEEP has also pushed for producer responsibility on a wide range of packaged products as a way to cut back on waste in Connecticut.
Some critics questioned how taking the $5 tire recycling fee away from dealers and giving it to the “stewardship organization” would prevent people from illegally dumping tires.
In the current system, most tires are shredded and sent to Maine where they’re burned in a trash-burning power plant. But Gresko said the lack of oversight leaves the door open for some tire haulers to resell used tires or not take them where they’re supposed to.
“That hauler already has the money in their hand upon leaving the retailer, so because they’ve been paid already, they can potentially go an examine the tires and say, ‘I could resell a couple of these, the rest I’ve already gotten paid for, so why am I going to spend my time taking them to the destination?’” Gresko said.
Under the bill, every tire would be tracked, and haulers would be paid after delivering tires, removing the incentives for illegal dumping, he said.
Some Republicans said the bill placed the burden of “bad actors” who illegally dump tires onto the tire producers.
“My inclination is that an EPR program is a big government solution to a problem that the private sector should be dealing with,” state Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, said. “Is it dealing with it? I don’t know.”