Keeping good tires on your vehicle is important for a variety of reasons: extending the life of your vehicle, maximizing gas mileage, and keeping you and your passengers safe. When your tires wear down, you replace them. However, as you drive off with new tires, you tend to think of the road ahead, not of what’s left behind. But that doesn’t mean your old tires disappear.
What Happens to Old Tires?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates nearly 300 million tires are discarded every year. Yet tires are banned from being dumped into many landfills because they become breeding grounds for mosquitos and other pests, several of which are disease bearers.
In the last thirty years, the demand to recycle the growing piles of used tires, and the demand for the products resulting from this recycling, has grown significantly. In 1990, only 11 percent of used tires were recycled, according to the U.S. Tires Manufacturers Association (USTMA). Today, spearheaded by efforts of the USTMA, more than 87 percent of scrap tires are recycled.
Uses for Recycled Rubber
Rubber can be ground up into various size chips, crumbs, and powders, depending on the need. Here are a few popular uses:
Asphalt & Railroad Beds – Rubber tire crumbs are being added to asphalt to help reduce noise and increase durability of roads. It’s also used in railroad beds beneath tracks, which helps absorb and lessen the noise from trains.
Sidewalks, Playgrounds, & Gardens – Rubber tire chips are used in pavement for sidewalks and bicycle paths, as well as on playgrounds. It’s also used as an alternative to wood mulch in gardens.
Gymnasiums & Tracks – Recycled rubber has found many uses for homes, from floor padding to roofing tiles. It can also be used for insulation. From gymnasium flooring to running tracks, to tennis courts and more, recycled rubber creates a softer surface designed to help minimize injuries to athletes.
According to the EPA and the USTMA, the use of tire-derived fuels (TDFs) is a viable alternative to using fossil fuels. TDF burns hotter (up to 25% more) and cleaner than coal, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions, for example. TDFs are being used, often added to wood or coal, in cement kilns, paper mills, and electric utility boilers.
What to Do with Your Old Tires
As recycled rubber can literally be shaped into anything, the applications for its use in industry, construction, clothing, and recreation are virtually endless. While all rubber that can be recycled should be, there is a constant supply coming off the road every year. To reduce impact on the environment and limit waste, check out these ideas for recycling and reusing your old tires.