Tire News & Information

Tire recycling: History & importance

Last updated 10/15/2022 - Originally published 9/24/2020
Written by SimpleTire

When tires are removed from a vehicle, they can still be used for a variety of purposes. Many times, used tires are given to scrap yards where they are kept or processed for a variety of uses. Scrap tires are widely considered one of the biggest solid waste problems in the world. Due to the materials used in tire manufacturing, including a variety of metals, sending scrap tires to landfills is highly discouraged. They also lead to inefficient landfill space.

Beyond being potentially harmful and highly inefficient as landfill material, tires can also catch fire and burn hazardous smoke into a local environment. While small tire fires may not cause significant problems, a fire in a scrap tire yard could be much more serious. It could burn for days or weeks. To avoid a serious accident like this, tire recycling is a great option for tires that are no longer safe to use on the road.

A smart alternative to discarding tires and letting them sit unused in scrap yards is recycling them. There's a distinct difference between scrapping tires and recycling tires. Recycled tires are purchased or donated from tire dealers, auto dealers, scrap yards, and service stations then put to use in a variety of ways that reduce the number of scrap tires and the space that they waste.

The Importance of Recycled Tires

While many auto manufacturers are tapping into alternative fuels and designing cars that are supposed to last longer, tires can only last so long. As more people drive cars, ride motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles, scrap tires and tire waste are growing concerns. More tire recycling programs and improved recycling processes are a growing point of focus for the automotive industry and environmental organizations.

As you might imagine, tire waste can have an adverse effect on the environment. This is one reason they are discouraged from landfills and why dumping and stockpiling is an illegal activity without a proper scrapping license. Tire fires are a danger, and scrap tires can taint water sources when improperly disposed of. The various metals as well as chemical compounds used in the tire rubber can affect the runoff and groundwater sources, especially in environments with a humid climate and moist soil.

Passenger-Vehicle Tire Recycling

One of the best things you can do to reduce your environmental impact is minimizing the necessity for frequent tire changes. Getting the most out of tires will also help you reduce the problem of tire waste. Driving wisely and ensuring that your vehicle and tires are properly maintained will help prolong tire life. Have your wheels regularly rotated, balanced, and aligned so you can safely use your tires for as long as possible. You should also regularly check your tire inflation pressure and tread depth.

Recycling will aid in the solution to a growing problem, yet there is no stopping the mass quantity of tires that will be produced. All vehicles on the road need safe tires. Quality tires that are replaced when necessary support vehicle safety and performance.

So, what happens to those tires when they are discarded and you pay that small tire disposal fee as part of your tire service? Most often, they are shipped to a contractor scrap yard where they can be purchased for the recycling process. You could also consider refusing the tire disposal fee and taking your used tires to a tire recycler yourself. This way, you can be sure your tires will be reused instead of thrown away.

A History of Tire Recycling & Recycled Tire Uses

There have always been those who have seen the value in reducing waste and reducing the burden put on natural resources. Tire recycling was born from the vision that raw goods can be born out of previously refined goods. They can be recycled and used in a number of applications.

In the beginning, as tires began to pile up and were shipped to contractor scrap tire yards, it was quickly realized that they simply couldn't be piled on top of one another for ages to come. With the ability to recycle these tires, many rubber production contractors began to turn tires into crumb rubber and industrial fuel.

Once tires have been ground and the steel and other materials removed from them, they are used for a variety of controlled fill purposes. For example, tire recycling offers quality rubber to be used under playground equipment, as well as solid rubber flooring that is used on many playgrounds. Shredded tire rubber is also used as mulch that helps prevent water flow and erosion.

In one of the most popular applications, recycled rubber is used underneath synthetic grass and turfs on sports playing fields.

Many old tires are also recycled and used in a variety of road paving materials. Hot melt asphalt is one substance that tires can be ground and melted into. The kind of rubber used in this process is known as crumb rubber. Crumb rubber is the material left over after all of the metal and other materials have been removed from a discarded tire. Over 12 million recycled tires are used in this application each year. 

One of the most creative uses for recycled tires is that of Earthships. These off-the-grid homes are built from a variety of renewable or recycled materials, including reused tires. Referred to as earth-rammed tires, they are literally filled with earth and then essentially become the bricks used to construct Earthships. Once earth-rammed tires are used to construct the dwellings, they covered with concrete or a natural adobe.

Additionally, recycled tires can be processed with unused rubber compounds. They become rubber bands. They become heavy-duty straps for hauling and storing. Recycled tires are even used in shoe construction. Simply put, the history of tire recycling is being written right now.

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