The United States generates about 290 million scrap tires annually. If not managed properly, old tires create many health and environmental problems. They can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitos and other disease-carrying insects.
Tires also act as fuel for fires. When old tires are burned, they release several harmful chemicals. These include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and several other toxins. These compounds lead to air pollution and are particularly detrimental to people with respiratory problems.
However, the tire problem isn’t limited to air pollution. Tires can also leach chemicals into the ground as they break down. Some of these toxic chemicals seep into the ground and waterways contaminating groundwater and soil and creating problems for plants and animals.
Fortunately, there are numerous sustainable ways of disposing of old tires. We’ll be exploring some of the options today, along with what you can do right now with the old tires in your garage or backyard.
Let’s jump right in.
Tire recycling is one of the most sustainable ways to dispose of old tires. It helps reduce pollution, conserve resources, and create new products.
When tires are recycled, they are first cleaned and shredded. The shredded tire pieces are then used in a variety of applications, including:
- Asphalt for roads
- Playground surfaces
- Landscaping mulch
- Tire-derived fuel
Through tire recycling, unwanted and end-of-life tires are reused or retreaded differently.
Recycled rubber from the old tires, for instance, is used to make crumb rubber, a form of granulated rubber used in playground surfaces, landscaping, and underlayment for synthetic turf fields.
However, new research shows that smaller crumb rubber may contain potentially hazardous substances.
Alternatively, tires can be chipped and used as fuel in cement kilns, paper mills, or power plants. Whole tires can also be used in civil engineering projects, such as constructing barriers or breakwaters.
In addition, research is ongoing into new ways to recycle tires, such as using them to create asphalt.
Today, most tires are made from natural rubber, steel, synthetic polymers, and textiles such as polyester, nylon, and rayon.
In essence, we can break down old tires and extract some materials. The primary scrap materials derived from tires include:
- Tire-derived fuel (36.8%) – According to the EPA, tires produce the same energy as oil and 25% more than coal. However, the process of extracting that fuel remains in contention.)
- Ground rubber
- Small rubber crumbs are used in civil engineering projects.
Others include steel, fiber, and nylon. The materials are extracted, cleaned, and sold for remanufacturing or use in other areas.
Regulation on disposing of old tires
Despite recycling efforts and stringent regulation, 14.3% of old tires still ends up in landfills, according to the United States Tire Manufacturers Association.
It’s worth noting that most landfills in the U.S. do not accept old tires. In fact, 39 states explicitly prohibit whole tires from landfills, while 13 states do not even allow shredded tires in such facilities.
Your old tire recycling options
- Call your local recycling service to enquire about their tire recycling programs. Some local governments also offer bulk tire trash collection.
- Alternatively, talk to your auto vendor or shop for old tire recycling options. Some charge a small disposal fee.
Several tire manufacturers also offer free recycling programs. Some of these include:
- Bridgestone’s Tires4ward Program
- Firestone’s Spent Tire Initiative aims to recycle a tire for each sold.
- Michelin is building a tire recycling plant.
Upcycling old tires
Tires are sturdy and durable, which makes them excellent upcycling materials. Here are a few creative and environmentally friendly ways to upcycle your old tires:
1. Using them as planters
Have you ever wondered what to do with all those old tires lying around? Rubber tires can last for years, but eventually, they tire out and need to be replaced.
Rather than simply throwing them away, consider upcycling them into planters! This is a great way to reduce waste, but it’s also an Eco-friendly way to add some unique style to your garden.
Tires make excellent planters because they’re durable, lightweight, and easy to move around. They can also be painted or decorated to add a personal touch. Plus, they’re the perfect size for small plants and succulents.
If you’re looking for a creative way to recycle old tires, consider using them as planters. You’ll be doing your part for the environment and adding some personality to your garden simultaneously!
2. Turn them into art and furniture.
Every year, millions of tires are sent to landfills, where they sit and release harmful chemicals into the environment. But what if there was a way to recycle old tires and turn them into something beautiful?
That’s where tire art and furniture comes in.
Tire art is a form of upcycling, which takes tire waste materials and turns them into new products. Old tires can be made into everything from benches and planters to sculptures and chandeliers.
Not only is tire art environmentally friendly, but it also helps beautify our world.
Here’s a quick DIY Ottoman made from an old tire and other readily available materials:
3. Turn them into sustainable construction materials
One interesting way to recycle old tires is to use them as construction materials. For example, “Earthships” are homes built partially or entirely from recycled materials, including tires.
The tires are filled with earth and then stacked to create walls. Earthships are designed to be sustainable and Eco-friendly, and they often have features such as solar panels and rainwater collection systems.
While they may not be suitable for everyone, Earthships offer a creative and environmentally-friendly solution for those looking for alternative traditional construction methods.
Watch how old tires are used to construct Earth-ships:
Tires present a challenging problem for the environment. They are made from fossil fuel derivatives and other synthetic polymers that take time to break down. However, they can be easily recycled, up-cycled or broken down for materials. Get a little creative with your worn out tires.
What do you do with your old, worn out or unwanted tires? Please leave a comment below.