If you had 290 MILLION old rubber tires sitting around, what would you do with them?
The question is not a theoretical one by any means. Every single year, some 290 million rubber tires are discarded by Americans across the country. Statistically, that translates into approximately one tire per person. Given the choice—what would you do with your used tires?
For years, ever since the popularity of tire recycling dropped in the 1960s, used rubber tires were tossed into landfills with abandon. The cumulative effects of millions of discarded rubber tires were disastrous. Tires, designed for a rugged life of use under a car, are made of vulcanized rubber. That means that rubber tires can sit around for literally thousands of years, and never decompose.
There are other problems with leaving rubber tires to sit in landfills ad infinitum. Discarded tires retain water, serving as a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests. The steel liners in the tires are prime culprits for tearing the protective lining at the bottom of a landfill, giving harmful substances the opportunity to leach into the soil. The oily residue left on the tires enters the ground as well, and runs off into our water supplies.
Worst of all, piles and piles of rubber tires left sitting around in landfills are primary targets for fires of the worst kind. Tire pile fires can burn for months, the constant flow of acrid black smoke releasing toxic pollution into the air for weeks and weeks. The smoke from the fires spreads and spreads, bringing toxic chemicals and air pollutants to outlying areas miles around.
Happily, the solution for old, discarded tires is a simple one, great for users and great for the environment. Enter tire recycling.
Tire recycling has gained enormous popularity in every developed country around the globe. Even tires that can no longer be used for cars are tremendously useful items, once you put your mind to the problem. Currently, recycled tires are routinely used in countless valuable ways.
Recovered rubber can cost half the price of natural or synthetic rubber, and possesses certain properties that supersede those of virgin rubber. The production of rubber through the recycling process uses less energy than the production of a new rubber product. And of course, recycling rubber tires keeps them out of landfills, which allows the environment to breathe a sigh of relief!
Recycled tires can be turned into a multitude of useful products. The scope of recycling methods is mind-boggling. A partial listing of products made from recycled tires includes shoes, sandals, buckets, motor vehicle parts, doormats, water containers, pots, dustbins, bicycle pedals, and crash barriers.
One of the most popular ways of recycling used tires is by removing the steel banding, and shredding the rubber into granules. The recycled rubber granules are then used for all sorts of things: playground cover, asphalt and athletic rubber surfaces, landscape mulch, arena footing, and more. According to one rubber mulch manufacturer, some 80 scrap tires are used to create just one cubic yard of recycled rubber mulch.
The tire recycling solution is a real win-win proposition for everybody! Tire users have a safe, legal way to discard their used tires, rather than leaving them around to serve as an eyesore and a potential environmental danger. Recycled rubber manufacturers have discovered an entirely new niche in the economical realm, using cheap and plentiful raw material. Consumers may now avail themselves of a complete new line of recycled rubber products, which are versatile, durable, and eminently useful. And best of all, the environment is protected in the nicest of ways!
With continued awareness, the number of rubber tires filling up landfills and hurting the environment can be significantly reduced. Happy tire recycling!
UWM Center for By-Products Utilization