Washington needs a robust study of the secondary tire market’s pathways and risk factors

Tires are toxic across their full lifecycle. Now that we understand the threat of 6PPD-quinone, Washington State has quickly become a leader in driving research and action planning. Soundkeeper does not presume to speak for any Tribal Nation but acknowledges with gratitude the role of Tribal Nations in driving action at both state and federal levels on this issue.

Initially, research and investment have focused at the tire manufacturing level into the search for alternative chemicals and at the infrastructure level into stormwater management to mitigate traffic-derived toxic tire wear particles. However, we lack fundamental data on a third major component of the tire life cycle: the secondary tire market. As of 2017, the most recent data available, more than 100,000 metric tons of tires make their way every year into Washington’s secondary tire market (Washington’s Department of Ecology has a Waste Tires program managed by one employee.).

The tires are used in applications such as:

  • Playgrounds and turf fields;
  • Fenders on boats and docks;
  • Landscaping surfaces, recreational paths, and horse arena mulch;
  • Roofing, traffic safety devices, and more.

Additionally, there are an estimated 1 million tires used as tire reefs in the Puget Sound, and a casual
observer can see legacy shoreline stabilization built from tires along major rivers like the Duwamish.

Now is the time for a robust study of the secondary tire market’s pathways and risk factors so
decision-makers have the data they need to design and plan for effective long-term solutions.
California has produced reports in 2020 and 2022 that helped answer:

  • How many tons of tires? What are the sources?
  • How are they handled? How are they repurposed or disposed of?
  • What does “recycling” mean in the local and global secondary markets?
  • Where are they used and what communities are most vulnerable?
  • What alternatives to using tire derived rubber exist? ”
  • How does our solid waste system need to adapt?

We propose a study detailing the handling, use, and management of tires in Washington’s secondary
market. This study would fill a critical data gap and supplement existing efforts to understand and
mitigate toxic tire exposure pathways. This data will enable decision makers to design, plan, and
implement sustainable best practices to protect our most vulnerable communities.

Currently, Senate and House budget leaders are overseeing the drafting of this proviso language into the Operational Budget, as it works its way through the legislative process. Soundkeeper is proud to share that 28 clean water, environmental justice, and conservation groups from across the state signed on with us, in support of this important issue. The organizations include:

  • Surfrider Foundation
  • Seattle Public Utilities
  • Duwamish River Community Coalition
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Communities for a Healthy Bay
  • Twin Harbors Waterkeeper
  • RE Sources
  • King County International Airport Community Coalition
  • Zero Waste Washington
  • Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Columbia Riverkeeper
  • Spokane Riverkeeper
  • Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team
  • American Rivers
  • Friends of the San Juans
  • Earthjustice
  • Sierra Club of Washington
  • Long Live the Kings
  • 350 Seattle 
  • Orca Network
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Toxic Free Future
  • Orca Salmon Alliance
  • Sound Action
  • Environment Washington

Want to learn about our other legislative priorities? Follow this link to read up on more of our priority issues.

For more: Michael Peñuelas, contract lobbyist, michael@blue-spruce.com