The Honorable Mitchell J. Landrieu
Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
RE: Scrap Tire Technology for Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Implementation
Dear Mr. Landrieu:
As you begin the process of implementing the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we write to share our appreciation for this important work and to offer you the full support and, as needed, technical expertise of America’s tire manufacturers and recyclers. Our organizations work to keep end-of-life tires out of landfills by promoting strong, societally beneficial markets for scrap tires, and we support efforts to rebuild and improve America’s roadways using technologies that will increase driver safety and ensure reductions in environmental impacts.
In that spirit, we wish to call your attention to two materials ideally suited to meeting the goals of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and to fulfilling the Biden Administration’s mission to minimize waste, advance pollution prevention, support markets for recycled products, and promote a transition to a circular economy:
Rubber-Modified Asphalt (RMA) is a mixture of asphalt with ground rubber from end-of-life scrap tires that delivers proven economic, environmental, and performance benefits in building better, longer lasting roads and highways.
• RMA is a proven cost-effective option as it increases pavement service life and reduces the need for road maintenance activities. This leads to significant life-cycle cost savings compared to traditional asphalt.
• The use of RMA results in a 32% reduction of CO2 emissions and lower energy consumption over the lifetime of a pavement as compared to traditional asphalt.
• RMA provides road performance benefits that include longer service life, increased skid resistance, significant noise reduction, and better ride quality.
• RMA’s relatively greater water permeability reduces water spray in wet conditions.
• Tire rubber is designed to be a poor heat conductor; as a result, RMA retains less heat and can help to control urban heat islands.
• Asphalt is one of the most recycled materials, further reinforcing the circularity of RMA.
• The use of ground tire rubber in RMA has increased roughly 50% since 2017 and RMA is already in use in 30 states. Nevertheless, the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), in partnership with the University of Missouri and The Ray, published a report evaluating the state of knowledge on modern RMA highlighted a need for additional research and improved sharing of best practices, underscoring the importance of a federal role in advancing the use of this beneficial, circular resource.
Tire-Derived Aggregate (TDA) is made from recycled scrap tires and is a cost-effective infill material for roadside embankments, retaining walls, and stormwater infiltration galleries.
• TDA allows for cost savings when compared to traditional mined minerals, such as gravel, since the lightweight recycled material costs less to transport.
• TDA has a larger void space compared to gravel, offering improved drainage and, in stormwater infiltration galleries, the potential to capture greater water volume with a smaller gallery footprint.
• Studies show TDA successfully captures potentially harmful pollutants from roadway runoff, including heavy metals, before they reach groundwater.
• TDA has proven effective and cost-efficient in mitigating ground vibrations from rail lines, a significant benefit to neighboring communities.
The scrap tire recycling success story – and the challenges ahead
Tires remain one of the most recycled and reclaimed products in the U.S. Since 1990 — through the combined efforts of USTMA, state and federal regulators, recyclers and other stakeholders — 94% of the scrap tires stockpiled in the U.S. have been recovered for new uses. However, USTMA’s 2018 Sustainability Report warned that scrap tire markets needed to grow to accommodate growth in new tire shipments. Data contained in the 2019 USTMA Scrap Tire Summary Report show that scrap tire markets have not kept up.
Although the total number of scrap tires going to recycle and reclaim markets has not significantly changed since 2017, the beneficial end use rate for U.S. scrap tires is now just under 76%, down from its 2013 peak of 96%, as scrap tire generation grew 7% (by weight) between 2017 and 2019.
USTMA is currently working with stakeholders on multiple fronts to encourage the growth of circular, sustainable markets for scrap tires. The inclusion of RMA and TDA as appropriate in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is essential to this effort.
RMA and TDA Applications in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
The following are specific provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law where Rubber-Modified Asphalt and Tire-Derived Aggregate can play an integral role in achieving program goals: