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A National Approach to Waste Tyres

Commonwealth Department of Environment, 2001

Appendix 1 Uncontrolled Tyre Fires

Uncontrolled tyre fires impose a range of costs on the community. The discussion in this section is based on three fires at tyre dumps of different sizes:

Firstly, as with any fire, tyre dump fires pose a threat to life (or at least of injury) for the general public and more particularly to fire fighters. In addition, there is the risk of the fire spreading and causing damage to property or natural areas.

In addition, because of their chemical composition, uncontrolled burning of tyres results in the emission of air pollutants. Of special concern are toxics and carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans, but carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulates are also released. Burning of tyres results in loss of amenity through visual impacts as a result of the heavy dark smoke and extremely unpleasant odours. One large fire in Sydney's fringe caused a pall of acrid black smoke that hung over the city for days. Fire fighters have reported respiratory problems after fighting tyre fires.

There is also the potential for pollutants from tyre fires to enter waterways and contaminate land. The water used to extinguish fires can transport the combustion products (including hydrocarbons and carbon black) from the fire to wetlands or other waters.

Finally there are the actual financial costs of fighting the fire (all cost estimates are reported in year 2001 dollars unless stated otherwise).

Uncontrolled fires in tyre dumps pose specific difficulties for fire fighters to induce water into the inside of the pile of tyres since, due to the geometry of tyres, the outer tyres in the pile form a barrier to penetration of the water. Experience with tyre fires has shown that while water by itself can control the fire, it is not sufficient to extinguish it. A common method to circumvent this problem is to use a powerful wetting agent (to be effective an A grade foam is required), such as the so–called BFFF compound, which allows the water to track into the centre of the pile of tyres. BFFF compound costs about $150 for a 20 litre container. Examples of quantities used are:

The alternative is to pull the pile of tyres apart using an excavator or similar equipment, provided access is possible, and once the fire has died down to an extent. Two excavators were used at Fire C (foam was not used on this fire). This fire burned for over 5 days and at a cost of $120 per hour for each machine working for 12 hours per day, the total cost is estimated at $14,400.

Details for fire appliances and personnel at the three fires are given in the following table:

Table A1.1 Summary of dollar costs of fighting tyre fires


Fire A Fire B Fire C
Number of hours 5 20 60
Number of units 3 24 41
Cost of units @$120 /hour $1,800 $57,600 $295,200
Number of fire fighters 15 120 288
Cost of fire fighters @ $30 per hour $2,250 $72,000 $518,400
TOTAL COSTS $4,050 $129,600 $813,600

There are further costs associated with cleanup after the fire. It is reported that the cleanup of the site at Fire B took 2 people and a bobcat 3 weeks at an estimated cost in excess of $10,000. Costs were also incurred for removal of weeds from a wetland, which had been quite effective in capturing the suspended hydrocarbon products in the runoff from the fire.

Various other costs were incurred. The local council spent $20,000 (in 1997 dollars) to provide food for the fire fighters at Fire C, and $15,000 for fuel. At Fire B the building had to be demolished. One street of residences was evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Summary

The major direct costs for fighting tyre fires are incurred on staff and equipment, with a substantial contribution from the purchase of wetting agents or hire of excavators. Based on the costs for the three case studies summarised above an estimate of the direct cost of $300,000 for a ‘typical’ tyre fire would appear reasonable. If one typical fire occurs each year, the annual cost is $300,000. To these financial costs must be added the costs of the likely significant environmental and amenity impacts.

Appendix 2 Clean–up Costs for Tyre Dumps

Options for clean–up of tyre dumps divide along two lines:

For tyres that are shredded prior to disposal at an excisting facility, a further distinction is made between tyres that are to be shredded on site, or tyres that are to be transported whole and shredded on arrival at the waste facility.

This section will first consider the costs for the component operations involved in clean–up of a tyre dump.

(a) Shredding

Costs for shredding are reported to be of the order of $1 per tyre if shredding is undertaken at a permanent installation, such as at a landfill. Costs for shredding on–site are some $0.10 per tyre more costly due to the use of a portable shredder and the need for special security arrangements against theft and vandalism of the shredder.

The cost estimates do not include a component for any additional work that might be needed, such as extracting tyres that are partly covered, cleaning the tyres, additional expense in operating the shredder due to earth in the tyres, or clearing foreign material from the shredder. An allowance of $0.15 has been added for these additional costs.

(b) Transport

The following assumptions have been made in regard to the transport of tyres:

For a distance of 25 km each way, the cost is $120 for 600 tyres or $0.20 per tyre.

A truck should be able to carry three to four times as many shredded tyres as whole tyres, so that the transport cost for shredded tyres is estimated at $0.05 per tyre.

(c) Disposal

A reported cost for on–site disposal of 100,000 whole tyres (20,000 m3) is $50,000 or $0.50 per tyre, including a component of $15,000 for 5,000 m2 of geofabric used as liner. Shredded tyres would be considerably less expensive due to their much smaller volume (75% of the volume of whole tyres is void) and it has been assumed that the cost would be approximately 30% of this figure or $0.15 per tyre. Note that on–site disposal may be subject to approval by the environmental regulator in some States and Territories.

Disposal at a waste facility is assumed to occur at an inert waste landfill. The disposal costs are estimated to range from $12 per tonne for a 250,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) landfill to $27 per tonne for a 5,000 tpa landfill. A value of $20 per tonne will be used in this analysis, equivalent to $0.20 per equivalent passenger tyre. While these cost estimates are expressed in terms of tonnes, the resource costs of landfills are dominated by volume considerations. Since whole tyres have so much empty space, it is assumed that a landfill operator would charge three times as much ($0.60 per tyre) for whole tyres as for shredded tyres.

Table A2.1 Clean–up Costs for Tyre Dumps ($/tyre)

Shredded/whole Disposed at Shredding costs Transport costs Disposal costs Total
Whole on–site 0.40 0.50
Whole landfill 0.20 0.60 0.80
Shredded on–site 1.25 0.15 1.40
Shredded on–site landfill 1.25 0.05 0.20 1.50
Shredded at landfill landfill 1.00 0.20 0.20 1.45

Discussion

The cost estimates given above are gross figures for cleaning up illegal dumps of used tyres. However, some of these costs would need to be met even if tyres were properly disposed of in the first place.

The costs to the community as a whole that could be ascribed to illegal dumping of waste tyres are the additional costs of clean–up such as:

Clearly the total additional cost would depend on the option selected, but would generally be not less than $0.20 per tyre.

Perhaps of greater importance than the level of resource costs (as estimated above) is the fact that, if the person responsible for the dump cannot be identified, the owner of the land or society at large is liable for both the usual costs of disposal as well as the incremental costs referred to above.

The above unit cost estimates were based on quotes to clean up a large dump (over 100,000 tyres). The significant economies of scale in the case of such a dump would not be available in the case of smaller numbers of dumped tyres, such as those typically found on farms, and the unit costs would accordingly be higher than the estimates given above.

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