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Editorial.

There were several common themes during the two-day symposium on automotive elastomers at the recent Rubber Division meeting in Chicago. Joining the standards of better quality, better documentation and lower cost was recycling. Several speakers from the U.S. car manufacturers mentioned that the ability to recycle a part, along with the amount of recycled material the part is made from, will be included in parts specifications. This must have been good news to the newly formed Rubber Recycling Topical Group that debuted at the same meeting. I know I welcomed this threat, as some look at it, because it should mean increased R&D into this area.

It's no secret that there is a scrap tire problem. The RMA estimates there are 2,000,000,000 tires in what they call "stockpiles" within the U.S. And it's estimated that 250,000,000 are added each year. In 1993, 81 million scrap tires were utilized, 86% of those were used as fuel. At the current rate of reuse, the 2,000,000,000 will double in 12 years. We have to do better than reusing only one-third of the annual scrap tire pile, and fuel use should not be the major market. Don't get me wrong, if that two billion scrap tire bright can be eliminated through clean energy providing incineration, do it. But what is really needed are sustainable markets.

It's ironic that it will be the auto sector providing the incentive for recycling because their procurement requirements of the past quarter century almost wiped out the industry and seriously affected research. But just as fears of government mandated recalls made Detroit eliminate recycled materials in parts, fears of government mandated recycled content are a main reason for the new push. And anyone familiar with Superfund or California's pollution control laws knows those fears are real.

The one disturbing thing about all of this that the car companies are telling us that quality parts can be made with recycled content. Ford even unveiled a brake pedal pad containing at least 50% recycled tire content that weighs less, costs less to produce and met or exceeded quality levels of the parts they replace. What disturbs me is why the rubber industry didn't tell them that?
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Title Annotation:scrap tire recycling
Author:Smith, Don R.
Publication:Rubber World
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:376
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