On Feb. 12, 1990, a huge pile of millions of used tires in Hagersville, Ontario, caught fire and burned for 17 days. Almost 2,000 people had to be evacuated and water wells in the area were contaminated. The incident prompted action by provincial governments to ensure management of tires in the recycling stream.
British Columbia’s tire program has been recycling tires for over 30 years, and it is the oldest recycling program in Canada. Since the provincial government launched Financial Incentives for Recycling Scrap Tires (FIRST) in 1991, over 100 million tires have been recycled in the province. Nonprofit Tire Stewardship BC (TSBC) manages the program now.
The majority of BC’s tires are recycled by Western Rubber Products of Delta, British Columbia—a division of Pittsburgh-based ISRI member Liberty Tire Recycling—into crumb rubber for sale to a variety of markets.
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“Tire Stewardship BC and all our dedicated tire processors, haulers, and retailers across the province have worked extremely hard over the years to create an effective and efficient tire recycling program, and as a result, it has grown into the most successful recycling program in North America,” states Rosemary Sutton, TSBC executive director. “Every year in BC the equivalent of more than 5 million vehicle tires are recycled into new, durable, and environmentally friendly products, with 100 percent of all scrap tires collected and re-purposed within the province.”
She notes that BC’s Environment Ministry ran the province’s tire stewardship program from 1991 to 2003, when industry took the lead. “So, industry caused the formation of Tire Stewardship BC, to have it run based on the people that were really hands on and involved in the business,” Sutton explains.
The Tire & Rubber Association of Canada, Retail Council of Canada, and the Western Canada Tire Dealers, with the addition of the New Car Dealers Association of BC in 2007 are the founders of Tire Stewardship BC. TSBC is still governed by a board that is made up of representatives from the four founders.
Glen Ringdal, Tire Stewardship BC’s chair, says the organization has pledged to the people of British Columbia that it will collect every used tire and recycle it into a usable product whether it’s floor mats, handles on tools, or the big rubber mats at hockey rinks. “What really excites us is that we are the axis if you will, of turning scrap into product,” he says. “I think what the industry-run program has done is it’s created stability, and some level of assurance with the recycled rubber manufacturer and the processors and the haulers. And so, what we have seen in the last 10 years is significant investment in their operations. Of course, investment and innovation just bring jobs.”
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Since the 30th anniversary celebrations were postponed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, TSBC will be celebrating throughout 2022 by partnering with organizations and events that focus on recycling and environmental sustainability throughout BC. Among those are educational programs in schools that teach pupils not only about tire stewardship, but also about the value of recycling.
Several community tire collection events are scheduled across the province throughout the year. TSBC awards grants toward a variety of projects including rubber surfacing for playgrounds, water parks, fitness areas, walkways, running tracks, and playing fields. To date, the TSBC has awarded over $5 million in community grants.
“Tire Stewardship BC has contributed to over 315 projects, and what makes us even prouder is that we have been active in 96 communities throughout British Columbia—from Prince Rupert to Vancouver Island—it’s all over the province, and an incredibly popular program as we are oversubscribed, every year,” Sutton says.
For more information on the TSBC community grant program visit: https://tsbc.ca/community-events-programs/the-tsbc-community-grant-program/.
Photo courtesy of Tire Stewardship BC. Caption: Tire Stewardship BC gave Senator Reid Elementary School in Surrey, British Columbia, a grant that provided them with 2,278 square feet of recycled tire rubber, which is equivalent to 1,391 scrap tires, to be used for the surface of a new playground.