How to Recycle Tires
Americans get rid of about one scrap tire per person per year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency counted about 290 million new scrap tires in 2003
That would make for one heck of a tire fire. Thankfully, long-burning and toxic tire fires are becoming blessedly rare outside of the fictional Springfield of “The Simpsons." Even so, plenty of scrap tire piles are stacking up all over the world, creating breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes and vermin. Too many scrap tires still end up in landfills or tire piles when they can easily be reused and recycled.
How to recycle used tires
You can typically recycle used tires at tire shops or through local recycling companies. If you pay a tire shop to replace your tires, ask them to recycle the scrap tires. It could add an extra fee (which a dishonest tire shop might not explain upfront), but will give you peace of mind about the scrap tire disposal. Also, try to support shops that recycle all their tires.
If you replace your own tires, ask local recycling companies if they accept scrap tires. They probably won’t pick them up curbside with your bottles and newspapers, but you might be able to take the scrap tires to their recycling sites. Many companies even offer tire amnesty days, when area residents can drop off a limited number of scrap tires with no fee.
What happens to recycled tires
Plenty of scrap tire recycling and reuse options are available for these companies. Scrap tires can be burned for fuel, shredded for road-building, retreaded and reused or ground down to produce recycled rubber mulch for commercial products. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?
• Tire-derived fuel: The Rubber Manufacturers Association estimates nearly half of all scrap tires are burned for fuel in factories and power plants. It is by far the largest use of scrap tires. It’s technically not used tire recycling because no new product is created. However, it is a practical byproduct of disposing scrap tires.
Cement kilns, paper mills and electric plants all burn either whole or shredded scrap tires . The process diverts millions of tires from tire piles and helps reduce the need for fossil fuels, but it brings its own problems.
Tire rubber can produce as much energy as oil, about 25 percent more energy than coal and double the energy of burned wood. Even with the required emissions controls, however, the tire combustion releases greenhouse gases and noxious substances. The output is cleaner than that of coal and some other fossil fuels, but it is still problematic.