The Economics of Tire Dumping in Amarillo–Part 1

Take a long look at the pictures above—what comes to mind? These pictures are just a snippet of the dumped tires strewn in Amarillo alleys and on vacant lots. So what comes to mind? Nasty people? Ignorant people? The “po” side of town where the City of Amarillo could care less “than a damn?” What about poverty? Can it be that the pictures you see above represent poverty in Amarillo? You would be wrong if you answered “yes” to any of the questions because these photographs represent tire dumping in alleys all across Amarillo. The problem is worse in the county where people dump tires on county property.

I recently posted a column on this website introducing our organization 791City. Our name stands for the zip codes in Amarillo, all of which begin with 791. Our first project is to begin the massive clean-up of dumped scrap tires in Amarillo alleys and vacant lots. What I have learned since “jumping in with both feet” with this project are the reasons why there is so much dumping of scrap tires around Amarillo.

And so let’s start at the beginning of the “economics” of tire dumping in Amarillo. Between 1990 and 1998 Texas reimbursed people who hauled off scrap tires. The reimbursement ended in 1998 and the $2 million left in the tire hauling fund was rolled over into the Texas general budget. The state of Texas got out of the tire hauling business choosing to allow the free market to deal with the problem. Almost immediately people who had been hauling tires and getting a reimbursement from Texas got out of the scrap tire business because it immediately became unprofitable. The state of Texas no longer requires tire dealers to collect a fee of any amount from individuals who buy new tires and want the tire dealer to dispose of the tires. One tire dealer told me that some Amarillo used tire dealers are barely making it so they dispose of their tires in alleys and on vacant lots “after dark.” Or they pay someone else who is barely making a living to haul them off and that person, instead of paying the $3.00 plus per tire to take to the landfill or a local recycling place, they wait until dark and sling tires everywhere. Take a close look at some of the photos—some of these tires are truck tires—all the same size—these are not passenger car tires. One scrap dealer in Amarillo told me that they have received calls from storage unit owners who open abandoned storage units only to see stacks of scrap tires. Again, people in Amarillo trying to make a few bucks, haul off tires from used tire dealers, rent a storage unit for a month, fill it with tires, then abandon the unit—filled with scrap tires. This same scrap dealer told me that they have received calls from Amarillo landlords whose “skipped out tenants” couldn’t pay rent left houses full of scrap tires. These people hauled tires for a fee, stored them inside rental houses and then bailed on the rent. One individual told me that Lawrence Lake off I-40 and Western in Amarillo is full of dumped scrap tires.

I recently spoke with Wal-Mart and asked what they charged customers to dispose of used tires. Wal-Mart charges $1.50. Some other dealers charge $2. But whatever the fee, many Amarillo customers who find themselves having to buy new tires are cash trapped and will not pay the additional $6.00 to dispose of 4 tires. The Amarillo city landfill charges $1.75 to dump tires under 17” and $4.75 to dump tires over 17”. The local landfill is at least 12 miles outside the city limits. To dispose of four used tires over 17” cost $19 plus gas and mileage. On top of that there is the labor and effort to pick up tires and haul them off or pay someone a few bucks to haul them off. And so the tires go home with the customers—and sooner or later the tires get rolled out into the alley.

All across Amarillo people are filling alleys with scrap tires. We have alleys filled with tires that so-called tire jockeys dumped after dark trying to make a quick buck to pay rent, food, or some overdue bill. Or we have alleys filled with tires rolled out beside the dumpsters because people who have to buy tires to keep their cars on the road to make a living can’t afford, or just refuse to pay the tip fee to have the tire dealer dispose of the tires. But there are people who can afford to pay the recycle fee who also take their tires home, and sooner or later the tires end up in Amarillo alleys. And the problem multiplies itself all over Amarillo—every neighborhood, year in and year out.

And so what do we have looming over us? A potential mosquito infestation of Biblical proportions if we don’t clean up all these scrap tires dumped all over Amarillo. I’ve made rounds to alleys and taken pictures of tires now filled with rain water from all the recent rain. People, we are headed for trouble when the water in these tires becomes stagnant in a few weeks and the mosquitoes lay eggs. I’ve been in Amarillo where mosquitoes were so bad you couldn’t walk outside. I’ve been in Amarillo where mosquitoes hover around the front door and beat you back inside and then sing around your head all night and you couldn’t sleep, plus you get bitten by them.

The Amarillo Environmental Health Department has a website at If you go there you will see a link to the right entitled, “Mosquito Control.” If you click on this link you will see what the City of Amarillo does to kill mosquito eggs. They call it larvacide, meaning “kill the mosquito eggs.” The site says that the City of Amarillo larvacides over 100 sites around Amarillo “when environmental conditions produce areas that are suitable for larvae to start hatching in stagnant standing water.” That same website has information on the ways to “Reduce your West Nile Virus Risk—Avoid Mosquito Bites, Mosquito Proof Your Home, Help Your Community.” That same website also has two posters, “West Nile Virus Poster” and “Are Your growing Mosquitoes in Your Backyard.” Emptying containers filled with water, including tires, is on the list of mosquito prevention.

School will be out in a few weeks and children will be outside playing in back yards, in parks, in the alleys, and on softball fields. Children and people over 50 are at the greatest risk of illness due to mosquito bites. If you think paying $6 to recycle tires is inconvenient wait until someone in your family gets sick because of mosquito bites. Our entire community, rich and poor, is at risk because of scrap tire dumping all across Amarillo. Rich or poor, a callous attitude about tire dumping exposes us all to diseases such as the West Nile Virus, Malaria, Encephalitis, or Dengue Fever due to mosquito bites.

We need to deal with Amarillo’s scrap tire problem. The ways we can help rid our community of scrap tires follow in Part II of the column.

Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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