Amnesty programs are used for everything from taxes to parking tickets. The idea is to offer an incentive in the form of forgiveness, to encourage a behavior that is beneficial to a larger group and at the same time reduce the administrative costs of tracking down and collecting what is owed or offensive.
Tires may seem an unlikely commodity to be involved in such a program, but when they are discarded or stockpiled in large numbers that can be a hazardous menace. When tires are allowed to collect rain water they become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and provide habitat for rodents. Large stockpiles of tires can be a fire hazard and tires can subject soils to contamination from the chemicals used in their manufacture.
In 2009 The Colorado Statesman reported that two sites on nearly 180 acres in that state contained 60 million junk tires laying in open pits, some being as deep as 60 feet.
The prevalence of discarded tires has become such a problem in Atlanta that the city council established a ten-member Tire Commission which will study the problem and report back to the mayor and city council by September.
Currently other jurisdictions are using amnesty programs to rid their communities of surplus tires. The tires that are disposed of during these efforts are not really discarded, since they are accumulating on properties whose owners would take advantage of the amnesty periods.
Provisions of the amnesty programs are usually similar. They are limited to residents of the community, commercial enterprises are excluded and there is a limit to the number of tires that may be processed.
Lake County, California, allows their residents to bring in up to 20 tires per year at no cost. In the state there are 44.4 million waste tires generated per year. The extent of stockpiled tires in California is tiny when its estimated 250,000 tires are compared to the problem in Colorado.
Students of a middle school class in Chesterfield County, Virginia, have applied what they learned in their environment class to the real world. The 24 seventh-grade students ran nearly every aspect of the tire amnesty day that was held recently. They verified residency, had an educational outreach program, helped to gather the tires and recorded and analyzed the data collected that day.
Their goal was to take in 2000 tires for the day and have their professional partners in the project transport and shred them. In this case their final resting place was the landfill where the shredded tires would replace rocks that are usually used as part of the infrastructure of the landfill.
While the average car owner may consider the life of a passenger car tire in terms of miles driven, in actuality its life is much longer and presents challenges all along the way.