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I worked with St. Louis alderman Jeffrey Boyd to investigate the nature of illegal tire dumping, its consequences, and the ways in which a city can defend itself. Cities across the country are invariably plagued by these bizarre black mounds, hundreds of thousands of tires dumped in alleys, in residential areas, often in poorer neighborhoods. Scrap tires are surprisingly insidious,—they can draw heavy mosquito swarms, present a horrible fire hazard, and exacerbate blight, not to mention the psychological costs of growing up with mounds of tires someone felt they could dump next to your house.
I mapped the dumping in a single neighborhood and interviewed residents, tire dealers, haulers, policemen, and others to try to gauge what was happening. We figured out that there were actually three different classes of perpetrators:
—Consumers who opt not to pay the extra fee per tire, then leave the tires somewhere
—Collection centers that don’t want to pay haulers
—Haulers who don’t want to pay fees to processors may go dump the tires in an alley
I presented my recommendations to a special St. Louis commission:
1. Coordinate with City of St. Louis Business License Office to audit tire facilities to determine which tire facilities are operating without a business license
2. Require a special permit to sell tires
–all collection centers would then be in a database
–right now, anyone can sell tires
3. Institute carrier decal system
—Permitted haulers would be required to feature a decal on their vehicle, creating identification opportunities for police and cameras.
The tire disposal system would become more visible, transparent and trackable
4. Local cleanup campaign
Most tires in the street are in very small piles or by themselves
5. For now, hold off on scrap tire branding and delayed carrier payment
—These advanced mechanisms are not only unproven but lack teeth without an existing database of stakeholders