With 5 million discarded tires littering the background, the US and Mexico announced an accord Thursday to clean up the mountains of rusty cars, smashed school buses and rotting rubber that are a blight on the border. Environmental officials from both countries said the first step of the massive clean-up would be to start burning the tires for fuel in cement factories. "The environmental challenges that we face do not respect political boundaries," said Richard Green, a regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "We experience them together, and we must address them together.
Mexico’s secretary of environment and natural resources, Alberto Cardenas-Jimenez, said Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua and officials of Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, have agreed to dispose of 800,000 used tires in each of the next five years. Ciudad Juarez will pay the cement-maker 31 cents for every tire burned and in turn, Cementos de Chihuahua will use the tires as fuel, investing $2.5 million in equipment at the Samalayuca cement factory, 25 miles south of Ciudad Juarez.
Though the US is not involved in funding the project, it worked with Mexican authorities in coming up with the plan. The agreement will only make a dent in the estimated 5 million used tires at the city’s collection center. Two million more are scattered in dry gullies and clandestine dumping sites throughout the city, where residents simply throw out tires to avoid paying the $1 fee the city requires to get rid of them.