Research News

NYS turns to UB RENEW Institute to improve tire recycling

Old tires piled up at a dump.

New York residents and businesses generate up to 20 million waste tires each year. Tire dumps are breeding grounds for mosquitos and pollute the air and water when they burn.


Published February 3, 2021

“RENEW’s overall goal to enable a regenerative economy includes improving recycling of all materials. ”
Amit Goyal, director
UB RENEW Institute

Tire dumps are a breeding ground for disease-bearing mosquitos and animals, and they cause significant air and water pollution if they catch on fire.

To help address these issues, UB’s RENEW Institute will work on a multidisciplinary study of the tire recycling industry.

The work is funded by a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) grant worth a quarter million dollars. The partnership builds upon the state’s 2003 Waste Tire Management and Recycling Act, which mandated market development for waste tires, prohibited land burial of these tires, and instituted a recycling fee on each new tire sold in the state to fund the cleanup of noncompliant tire waste stockpiles, among other activities.

“The project is well-aligned with RENEW’s mission to bring together teams of multidisciplinary faculty to focus on complex issues related to energy and the environment,” says RENEW Institute Director and SUNY Distinguished Professor Amit Goyal, who is also the project’s director. “RENEW’s overall goal to enable a regenerative economy includes improving recycling of all materials.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos notes that New York residents and businesses generate up to 20 million waste tires each year, and to achieve the state’s environmental sustainability goals “we must find productive reuses of the materials.”

“DEC has already taken effective actions to address illegal tire stockpiles that created threats to public health and the environment, but we must do more to strengthen tire recycling markets and infrastructure,” Seggo explains. “We welcome this newest partnership with UB to help reduce an abundant and challenging waste stream and recycle tires in an economically and environmentally beneficial way.”

DEC and UB will explore different options for the beneficial use of whole tires and tire byproducts other than refurbishing these tires for reuse on vehicles or use as fuel to be burned in power plants, paper mills and other facilities. UB will inventory and evaluate existing data, assess the current supply and demand for various forms of tire rubber in New York and across the U.S., and evaluate methods to improve waste-tire recycling infrastructure and the marketability of secondary tire-based materials and products.

In addition, UB will evaluate policy options that may be appropriate to promote waste-tire rubber marketability and develop recycling markets for waste tires in New York. This project is funded by the state’s Waste Management and Cleanup Account, which is supported by the state’s tire recycling fee.

The multidisciplinary UB team includes co-investigators Aditya Vedantam, assistant professor, Department of Operations Management and Strategy, School of Management; John Atkinson, associate professor, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Michael Shelly, RENEW environmental economist and research assistant professor, UB RENEW; and Yi Zhang, senior scientist and research assistant professor, UB RENEW.

The UB RENEW Institute harnesses the expertise of more than 100 faculty members from seven schools and colleges at UB. In addition to environmental issues, it also tackles energy and water issues, with a focus on developing and coordinating innovative research, education and outreach programs.