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While most of Iowa’s 3 million old tires are disposed of properly each year, some illegally disposed tires recently left unsuspecting landowners with a financial headache and environmental concerns.
“In the last 18 months, we’ve seen a few unregistered haulers in eastern Iowa who collected waste tires from businesses and then stockpiled or abandoned them in farm fields, wooded lots or even mini-storage units,” said Kurt Levetzow, supervisor of DNR’s southeast Iowa field office. "In a few cases, they’ve actually burned the tires, which creates toxic smoke and degrades air quality.”
Cleanup of illegally disposed tires can be costly. In 2020, the city of Davenport spent more than $85,000 to remove approximately 18,000 tires from a residential property where a waste tire hauler violated DNR’s disposal guidelines. DNR revoked the hauler’s $10,000 financial assurance bond to reimburse the city for a small portion of the costs.
“If you’re paying someone to pick up your old tires, you are required to use a DNR-registered waste tire hauler,” says Mel Pins, DNR’s waste tire coordinator. “If you’re paying a price that’s extra cheap, you should be extra concerned, as that individual is most likely not registered with DNR. And that tire may come back to haunt you.”
For more than 30 years, Iowa law has prohibited land disposal of waste tires. Waste tires cannot be dumped, buried or burned. No more than 500 waste tires can be stored. Use a properly registered waste tire hauler and processor who regularly disposes of tires to help keep storage under the 500-tire limit.
“We have an excellent network of registered and permitted waste tire haulers and processors in the Midwest,” said Pins. “If businesses and individuals use them, they have no further liability.
“I’ve had 25 years of experience as ‘The Tire Guy’ at DNR, and I’m amazed that some unregistered individuals still stockpile waste tires, or charge for disposal and then illegally dispose of them,” said Pins. Businesses or individuals using a non-registered waste tire hauler can be subject to fines and penalties. If DNR finds improperly disposed tires, the business may have to clean them up.
Levetzow recommends Iowa residents leave old tires with their tire dealer. ”The disposal fee is usually quite small—less than $5. Don’t take a problem home with you. Your tire dealer can dispose of it through the registered network ensuring it will be recycled or landfilled,” he said.
Iowans can contact DNR for more information on proper waste tire management. Or check the website for a list of registered waste tire haulers and processers. Call the local DNR field office to report improper management or disposal. For more information reach out to Mel Pins, Land Quality Bureau, Iowa DNR at 515-729-4616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.