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Harford County farmers can drop off their used tires for recycling — for free — starting next week

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Starting next Monday, Harford County farmers can drop off their used tires for recycling — free of charge — at the Harford Waste Disposal Center in Street.

“It’s so much better than putting them in a landfill,” county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said of the benefits of recycling the tires.

Harford County does not recycle tires itself but provides the dropped-off tires to Auston Contracting, of Joppa. The vendor handles the actual recycling, according to Mumby.

Auston is the same company that sought county approval to establish a pyrolysis plant on its Pauls Lane property, although it was denied by the Harford County Council sitting as the Board of Appeals. The plant would have been used to break down tires to get byproducts that can be used in other industrial settings, such as heavy oil or carbon black residue.

The county accepts used tires from non-farm vehicles for recycling on a regular basis. Residents can drop those tires off at the Waste Disposal Center, too. The first five are free, and then there is a charge of $2 to $7 per tire, depending on the size and whether they are on or off the rim, according to Mumby.

The county accepted 50 tons of agricultural tires the last time it held a recycling program in January 2016. The program is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the county seeks to hold it when funding is available, according to Mumby.

“Farmers, in general, hold onto their tires until these events come along,” she said.

Supporters of the agricultural tire recycling initiative include the county’s Department of Public Works, the MDE, Harford County Farm Bureau, Maryland Farm Bureau and Maryland Environmental Service.

The county government outsourced its solid waste and recycling operations to Maryland Environmental Service, a nonprofit, quasi-governmental state agency, in 2015.

“We’re so lucky in Harford County to have officials of the Maryland Department of the Environment and Maryland Environmental Service working with us on this,” Janet Archer, president of the Farm Bureau, said Wednesday.

Archer said it could be another three years before the next recycling program for agricultural tires happens. It does not occur every year because of the cost and the amount of planning needed to “effectively handle this volume of tires.”

“It’s a really good opportunity for farmers to clean up and get rid of things that are hard to get rid of,” said Archer, whose family owns Fawn View Manor Farms in Pylesville.

The MDE has made $550,000 available this year for agricultural tire recycling in Carroll, Cecil, Frederick and Harford counties, according to Mumby. Harford will be reimbursed based on the tonnage received, so the amount of grant funding that comes in will be determined after the program ends, she said.

“MDE funds these grant programs because they seek to increase the collection of scrap farm tires which, because of their size, can otherwise create difficult and costly collection, disposal and recycling challenges,” agency spokesperson Jay Apperson wrote in an email Wednesday.

“Placing a greater emphasis on these agricultural tires helps protect the environment and public health,” he continued.

Scrap agricultural tires should be recycled because they can become breeding grounds for animals that can harm humans such as mosquitoes, snakes, rats and ticks if not disposed of properly. They can also become a fire hazard if not stored correctly, and they release soot and harmful oils if burned, according to Apperson.

“We provide funding to local jurisdictions, for agricultural tire and citizen scrap tire collection, as funds are available,” he wrote.

Archer, the Farm Bureau president, noted challenges farmers have in getting rid of old tires as they put new ones on their vehicles. They vary in size, including those used on farm equipment such as combines, tires high enough that a child could stand in them.

Scrap tires are often stored in sheds, and they accumulate because of the many wheeled vehicles needed on an average farm, according to Archer.

“Nobody wants them just sitting around and not be able to be used,” she said, noting it is “certainly a plus” to have a way to get them out of the environment.

The recycling program starts next Monday, Jan. 28, and runs through Feb. 11. Tires can be dropped off at the Harford Waste Disposal Center, at 3241 Scarboro Road in Street, from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

People dropping off tires must show proof of Harford County residency, and officials recommend dropping them off during the week to avoid long lines, according to a county news release.

The program is open only to commercial and residential farmers; tires from passenger vehicles, light trucks and agricultural equipment will be accepted. There are no limits on size or the number of tires, and they can be on or off the rim, according to the news release.

Businesses and individuals not related to agriculture cannot participate in this program. Visit the county’s website for more information on recycling and trash disposal.

Contact recycling program manager Wendy Doring at 410-638-3417 or wdori@menv.com for more information about agricultural tire recycling.

Archer said Doring, who works for Maryland Environmental Service, “is phenomenal and has really gone to bat” to get the program to happen “in an effective way.”

“Getting [tires] off the farm and being recycled is surely the way to go,” Archer said.

Auston continues tire recycling, push for pyrolysis

The site of Auston’s proposed pyrolysis plant is in an area zoned for commercial and industrial use. The company already operates a transfer station there to handle scrap tires and construction debris. Surrounding residents loudly opposed the pyrolysis project, though, fearing environmental harm and risks to public health.

A county zoning hearing examiner issued a ruling in July 2018 that the project did not fall under permitted uses for a CI zoning district, reversing county Planning and Zoning Director Bradley Killian’s finding that it would be a permitted use.

The Harford County Council, sitting as the Board of Appeals, upheld the hearing examiner’s decision in October 2018. Auston has appealed the Board of Appeals’ decision in a case currently pending in Harford County Circuit Court, attorney Jefferson L. Blomquist, of Baltimore, wrote in an email Wednesday.

The company “continues to investigate the possibility of the further processing of scrap tires through pyrolysis.” Auston has MDE licenses for scrap tire hauling and scrap tire recycling, the attorney stated.

“Auston continues one of its business of collecting and shredding scrap tires and transmitting the shredded tires to licensed/permitted sites for further processing/disposal,” Blomquist wrote.

He also noted that disposal of scrap tires continues to be a problem as such tires keep accumulating, and that scrap tires disposed of illegally continue to be unearthed and uncovered.

“Virtually every American household generates scrap tires, both directly and/or indirectly through publicly-used transportation and the consumption of goods, the manufacture and delivery of which involves wheeled transportation and equipment,” Blomquist stated.

He said many chips from shredded tires are exported overseas for disposal, where they are burned, causing air pollution.

“Such poor management accelerates global warming,” Blomquist stated. “Exporting pollution is a poor alternative to responsible processing through pyrolysis and the production of what would otherwise be non-renewable resources, i.e., carbon black and Brent Crude – both publicly traded commodities of value.”

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