CSU Long Beach -- October 24, 2003

California State University, Long Beach Bureau Receives $200,000 in Grants to Study Use of Re-Refined Oil, Tires by Fleet Managers in Southern California

The Bureau of Government Research and Service at California State University, Long Beach has been awarded $200,000 by the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) for a pair of projects that will look at the use of re-refined motor oil and tire usage and upkeep by automotive and truck fleet managers, both public and private, in Southern California.

The goal of the motor oil project is to increase the demand for re-refined oil by educating fleet managers of its quality and successful uses. The tire study objective is to identify best practices among fleet managers with regard to the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of vehicle tires with the goal of promoting good stewardship.

The mission of the CIWMB is to reduce waste and to promote the management of all materials to their highest and best use. The six-member board is also responsible for protecting the public's health and safety and the environment through management of the estimated 56 million tons of solid waste generated in California each year.

"Creating more awareness is a goal of both of these projects," said Michelle Saint-Germain, principal investigator for the projects and director of CSULB's Center for Public Policy and Administration, of which the Bureau of Government Research and Service is part. "We want to design ways to spread that awareness that will be accepted by the people we want to target, and, down the road, we would also like to show that there has been a positive effect on the environment as a result of these efforts."

Also involved with the projects are co-investigators Martha Dede and Edward Martin, both faculty members in the Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration, and project staff members John McQueen and Luis Urgiles, two recent graduates of the CSULB MPA program. The projects are scheduled to be completed by December 2004.

Re-refined oil is a product of recycling used oil. The used oil is put through a re-refining process similar to the process crude oil goes through. Contaminants are taken out and new additives are put in so the oil is just like brand new. Saint-Germain said for every six quarts of used oil, four quarts can be recovered through the re-refining process. Additionally, the process can be used again on the used re-refined oil.

"There are two reasons to advocate for the use of re-refined oil. First, if you use more re-refined oil, you can cut down on the amount of oil imported from other countries," Saint-Germain pointed out. "The second reason is environmental. Making better use of used oil will cut down on the amount of used oil that is disposed of and unsafely discarded."

As part of the project, those involved with the study will conduct a survey of at least 100 fleet managers from the private, state government and local government sectors to identify the barriers and benefits to using re-refined oil and strategies to overcome the identified barriers. There will also be focus groups as well as workshops with government and private fleet managers to further identify barriers and present solutions to the problems.

Reducing waste and reducing reliance on imported products is also a focus of the tire project. The CIWMB reports that California is faced with the challenge of diverting or safely managing more than 31 million reusable and waste tires generated each year, including millions of waste tires that are illegally dumped or stockpiled.

"Historically, the operators of large vehicles have taken their old worn tires and had them re-capped or re-treaded, and they keep using them over and over again," explained Saint-Germain, who said the study would focus on larger vehicles (trucks and multi-axle vehicles). "Recently, however, there has been an influx of new tires, especially from Asian manufacturers, that are so inexpensive that it is almost as cheap to get a new tire than it is to get a used tire refurbished."

The original tires, she said, are of a quality that can be recapped and used several times, but with the cheaper tires, the structural integrity of the sidewall isn't going to hold up for being reused. These "cheaper" tires wear out faster and are not as reliable, which means they will have to be replaced more frequently.

"These new imported tires are really designed as a single-use tire," she continued. "So, what happens is we're going to import more and more tires, and then we're going to have these huge piles of tires that can't be reused. Consequently, we're going to have more tire waste."

The tire project will also include a survey of at least 100 fleet managers from private and government sectors. Focus groups will also be used, and five workshops will be conducted to present solutions and discuss best practices on how to get the most wear out of tires, such as keeping them properly inflated.

"With both of these projects, we will try to show that these strategies are cost beneficial for the fleet managers looking at the bottom line," Saint-Germain said. "These are strategies that are going to help the bottom line and they are going to be good for the environment."

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