If a new program doesn’t replace the Ontario Tire Stewardship, Bob Ward fears tire dumping could return, raising the risk for another Hagersville fire.
Count Bob Ward as someone who will miss the Ontario Tire Stewardship.
The Ontario government announced it will shut the program down by the end of 2018 following a Toronto Star investigation that showed numerous nefarious activities taking place within the agency.
Suspicious money transfers, fraud allegations and wasteful spending at the executive level were uncovered by the Star. Thousands of dollars were spent on luxury trips, fine wine and donations to the provincial Liberal party, the Star’s investigation found. Its stories also exposed executive fraud allegations from bank transfers deemed questionable and highlighted by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, a federal investigation organization that looks into money laundering and terrorism.
It “frustrated me to no end when I found out these executives were abusing this and taking this money themselves,” said Ward, owner of The Auto Guys in St. Thomas Ontario and vice president of the Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario.
“We need this program because it virtually eliminates the unnecessary dumping of tires,” Ward added. “That’s what the whole thing was designed to do — to find a viable source for these tires to get recycled and brought back in, rather than be disposed of (irresponsibly). It’s an awesome program.”
The agency collects eco-fees when tires are purchased. These fees go towards costs associated with recycling tires. Ward’s fear is that people will go back to the old practice of dumping tires in empty fields or on the side of the road and we could see another Hagersville tire fire, which burned for 17 days in 1990. It drove 4,000 people from their homes and cost more than $15 million (more than $25 million in today’s dollars) to fight.
“That was horrific,” Ward recalled.
“We need this program because it virtually eliminates the unnecessary dumping of tires.”
Bob Ward, The Auto Guys and AARO
About $70 million is collected by retailers from consumers for the agency every year, according to the Star. Ward would like to see a third party come in and oversee a new system of recycling tires and have fees dropped if so much revenue is being collected through the program.
“People really don’t mind,” paying the fees, he continued. And they’re used to it. “It’s on everything. I mean, it’s on electronics, it’s on oil filters, it’s on a container that oil products come in. Personally, I don’t mind paying these fees knowing that these products are going to be responsibly disposed of or recycled.”
The loss of the program may not impact the aftermarket industry, but Ward sees possible long-lasting ripple effects elsewhere. Many businesses have been successful in using recycled tires for different products, such as in asphalt, playground pads, track and field tracks, ground cover in landscaping and others, he said. “And that’s all because of the program.”
Should the option of recycled tires no longer be available, “then these people are going to have to renegotiate where they get their source rubbers from. That’s a big thing and it’s going to drive the price up.”