NPR Story
11:53 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Recycling Cuts Down Mexican Used Tire Dumps

Recycling efforts are helping reduce health and safety risks posed by tire dumps located in Mexican border cities.

Nearly a decade ago the Environmental Protection Agency and its Mexican counterpart, the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales or SEMARNAT, partnered to reduce the number of tires dumped in cities like Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo.

In 2004, the largest dump site sat in Ciudad Juárez, where nearly 5 million tires collected in towering piles on a patch of desert in the city's outskirts. Thanks to recycling, the site now holds less than a million tires.

Gustavo Nuñez works for the Mexican cement company, Cementos de Chihuahua, one of the local companies that helps recycle tires.

"We're using one million tires per year as an alternative fuel for our cement kilns," Nuñez said.

Other companies are grinding down tires to use as a kind of surface asphalt for sports facilities.

Similar recycling efforts have helped reduce tire waste in other Mexican border cities. Tire dumps can breed rodent and mosquito populations that spread disease in humans. They are also a dangerous fire hazard.

SEMARNAT estimates that 80 percent of the used tires that end up in Mexico's border cities come from the United States. Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana typically import more than 600,000 used U.S. tires every year.

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