Tires, Recycling and Our Planet

The tires we put on our cars are made of rubber, a renewable resource, right? Not so; well over 90% of all tires are made from synthetics - and they have certainly proved to be an environmental headache.

In the USA, about 300 million tires are scrapped or dumped per year.
Tires tend to be dumped in huge piles. If these piles should be set alight, the smoke is an extraordinarily toxic cocktail and the runoff from melted residue can contaminate groundwater.
Tires left sitting around in the open also collect rainwater and become perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos.
While there's been a lot of talk about recycling tires, 25% still wind up in landfills and nearly nearly half of reclaimed tires in the USA are utilized as "Tire Derived Fuel" (TDF), usually burned alongside other fuels such as coal.
Burning tires creating huge amounts of toxic air pollution, oil, and heavy metals; including:

  • benzene (carcinogen)
  • lead
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • butadiene (central nervous system damage, carcinogen)
  • styrene (potential carcinogen)
  • dioxins
  • furans
So unfortunately, taking them to recycling centers mightn't be that earth friendly after all. Check with the center that you go to regarding what happens to the tires they collect. While tires are a necessary evil in our modern lives, there's other things we can do to reduce the number of tires that may wind up being used as a toxic fuel alternative or just dumped in landfills. You can also save some cash in the process.

Extend tire life by:

  • ensuring they are inflated to proper levels
  • check inflation levels weekly
  • don't speed
  • corner, brake and start off gently
  • ensure your tires are properly balanced and rotated regularly
  • don't overload your vehicle.
Tires can also be recycled for many other uses. As far as I'm aware, the key is that the tires not be burned - that's the greatest danger.

Other ways tires are currently being reused:

  • insulation blocks
  • drainage aggregate
  • clean fill
  • planters for tomatoes and potatoes
  • floor mats
  • belts
  • gaskets
  • shoe soles
  • seals
  • washers
One of my favorite uses is the potato planter. You lay down a tire, fill with soil, then when the potato has sprouted and the leaves reach higher than a width of a tire, then add another tire and put in soil, covering the plant except for the topmost leaves. Repeat the process throughout the life of the plant and you'll have a huge crop of potatoes!

Michael Bloch is the author and owner of Green Living, an online resource powered by renewable energy offering a wide variety of earth friendly tips, green guides, advice and environment related news to help consumers and business to reduce costs, consumption and environmental impact on the planet.