Millions of used tyres from the United States are ending their days in Mexico, causing headaches for border communities faced with a growing disposal problem. The topic was a central theme as US and Mexican environmental officials discussed waste management issues that link border residents from Tijuana to Matamoros. "It’s a problem begging for a solution," said Matt Hale, director of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste. The EPA estimates that as many as 40 million scrap tyres end up in the border region. The agency and its Mexican counterpart, the Secratariat for the Environment and Natural Resources, or Semarnat, are giving themselves until the end of this year to develop a scrap-tire strategy.
Tyres have been a major topic, as one of Border 2012’s goals is to clean up three of the largest sites for abandoned tires in the US-Mexico border region. Used US tyres have for years been a bustling business in northern Mexico. Mexican tyre importers, llanteros, sell them to consumers who squeeze additional mileage out of them before getting rid of them for good. The enterprise has left unwanted tyres in communities all along the border, creating a range of environmental problems.
"The quick, easy and cheapest solution is the cement plants" where scrap tyres are used as fuel, said Daniel Chacón Anaya, general director of Semarnat’s hazardous waste division. Even so, they must be transported to the plants, and that costs money, too. And cement kilns can’t accept all tyres.