Sunday, February 17, 2008

A river that is sick... and "Tired."

(Mending the Mississippi: A Site 3 Project.) A lot of tires end-up in the river. I’m going to explain why I think that is later in this post, but before I go there, let’s talk about solving a specific problem on the Metro Mississippi.

During my final Mississippi run of the 2007 season, I traveled from Rice Creek in Fridley… to Boom Island near downtown Minneapolis, doing somewhat of a crisscross pattern, going back and forth from the east bank to the west bank. Obviously, that means I did not do a thorough job of reconnaissance on either bank; the river is too wide for me to visually scan both sides at once. (For another thing, we had fall thunderstorms that day, and I spent some time looking for cover!) This spring, I will take several more trips down the same route, and conduct a more complete inventory of both the east and west banks.

Even with this quick trip, I was able to identify quite a few targets. I counted nine tires (an average of nearly one per mile). You can see the specific route, including waypoint indicators where each of the tires was located, at the bottom of this blog posting. There was one area where the discarded tires were more heavily concentrated; five of the nine tires were within one mile of each other. Translation: It has become a favored and convenient dumping ground.

There are a number of potential “next steps” for the tire problem in this stretch of the Mississippi.

This might be as simple as taking my utility trailer down to the river and extracting the tires myself when the ground thaws. (Removing nine tires doesn’t sound that tough, after all.) But I’m thinking it might be smart to recruit some help… because I have tons of other work to do on this and our other two sites. (Also, with some additional survey work, simple match indicates that I could find another ten or twelve tires in this area in the spring.)

I might contact one or more tire retailers to see if they might be interested in helping me with this specific task. Perhaps we could schedule a specific “date” to tackle this project… and we could capture the event with some digital photos. Lots of companies are looking for ways to behave in a manner that is more environmentally responsible, after all, knowing that consumers are increasingly apt to purchase from businesses who are sensitive to these issues.

If that step is taken, perhaps we can schedule a specific date and time that the extractions would take place. I could capture the effort with digital photos, so that the retailer could capture the event and tell their customers about it on their web site, or through lobby displays. (How much can it cost to print and frame a photo, and write a brief story about the effort?) Maybe we could even drop a press release or two to area media outlets.

Because there was at least one “high concentration area,” where a considerably higher number of tires were confined to a specific area, perhaps I should I figure out who has jurisdiction over the roadways near these sites… to see if they would erect some “no dumping” signs.

Should I encourage users of this blog to be part of the solution? (We’ve already explained how the sites can be moved from this blog to your handheld GPS device; you can review the procedure by clicking here.)

Last year, Bridgestone Corporation had roughly $19.7 billion in revenue. They were followed by Groupe Michelin at $19 billion, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber at $17.8 billion. While I couldn’t find any statistics about revenue from local tire retailers, we can assume this much: There are some companies who make a lot of money by putting tires into the environment. It shouldn’t be too unreasonable to ask one of them to help take some tires out of the environment.

NOTE: Anyone who attempts to recover the items listed in this posting does so at their own risk. Please adhere to the safety instructions and guidelines provided by the DNR. Also, please let me know if you either intend to remove one or more of these items, or that you have succeeded in doing so. Just drop me an email, so I can post your success story here!

Now… before I close this posting, let’s talk about how and why these tires end up in a river.
One simple problem: Waterfront property owners often use tires as “bumpers” between their docks and boats. Occasionally, I presume, the tires can come loose and end-up in the water.

A more logical and frequent cause: People throw tires in the river to save time and money. Let me explain.

On Friday afternoon, I called the store where I buy my tires, to ask about where the liability sits, with regard to tire disposal. A young man by the name of Adam was quite helpful, and confirmed what I thought I knew: In the state of Minnesota, at least, there is a $2.50 disposal fee (or, an environmental tax, as some people call it) which is added to the cost of tire installation, if the customer chooses to leave their old tires at the store for disposal.

This fee is optional. If a customer wants to save the money, they can keep the tires and find an “alternate means” of disposal. In Minnesota, you cannot put tires in your weekly trash for disposal. It is against the law to put tires in a landfill. So where do those tires go which are not left with the retailer who took them off your car?

You guessed it. They’re dumped.

(I have already pontificated about the need to make doing the wrong thing more expensive than the cost of doing the right thing. See “We need to make it hurt,” posted 1/28/08 at

So what happens to all of those tires which are left with the tire retailer? Adam tells me they are taken to a company in Blaine, Minnesota, which shreds and recycles them. Next time you see a track and field event, know that the runners might be racing across tires that were disposed of properly.

I’m going to learn more about this recycling process, and share more about the behaviors at this blog in the future. It is a win-win practice that we should all know more about.

Note: I have not given the name of the tire retailer I use, because I don’t want to put those folks on the spot. But I’ll be dropping an email to their RVP this week, hoping they’ll be the partner that helps me dispose of the tires I’ve found in the Mississippi.

A map to the tires found along the Site 3 stretch of the Metro Mississippi:

View Larger Map

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to virtually meet someone else who is serious about removing tires from our rivers.
    I've added a link to your site from my links page, I'd be grateful if you could reciprocate.


    Ken Corbett