Where Do Old Used Rubber Tires Go?
Old, or scrap tires, are used rubber tires that because of their abrasion state (“tire wear”) are not safe for public traffic. Old tires can go into tire recycling or will be dumped, either in legal landfills or illegally; another portion may be pyrolysed to produce tire-derived fuel or heat energy. These old tires are generally discarded after only a small amount of rubber is worn away. Even so, these tires are unfit for further use in the vehicles they were made for.
All tires wear out. In the United States alone about 300 million used and worn out tires are disposed of every year. In the past, old tires usually went to the local landfill or were burnt. Environmentalists will tell you that neither of these solutions was good for the environment. Burning old rubber tires releases dangerous toxins and pollutes the air.
Since old tires don’t biodegrade, throwing them away in a landfill simply means they’ll keep stacking up over time, taking up tremendous amounts of space. They also become havens for rats and mosquitoes to breed. In addition, they have been known to bubble to the surface of landfills as they tend to trap methane gas. This bubbling can contaminate local water systems, as it can damage the landfill liners that are meant to control contaminants. The different stabilizers and flame retardants added to tires have also been known to kill advantageous bacteria in the soil, creating yet another economic problem. Originally, this was the primary form of disposal for scrap rubber (70% in 1977), but due to the decreasing availability of space, this process is no longer considered feasible.
Years ago, some landfills became so-called “tire mountains” due to the sheer number of old tires that had been discarded in them. Before states began to pass scrap tire laws in the 1980s, there were approximately 2-3 billion tires stockpiled in landfills. Today, as many as 90% of those stockpiled tires have been recycled successfully. In fact, old tires have gone from an environmental nuisance to a recycling success story over the last 25 years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 80% of (or roughly 240 million) scrap tires now get recycled each year.
When you buy a new set of tires today, the dealer will usually recycle your old tires for you. In most states in the United States of America, a fee is included in every new tire that is sold. Waste Tire fees can be collected by states, importers, and sellers, the latter being the most common case. These fees are collected to help support tire-recycling programs throughout the states of the United States of America. State tire-recycling programs are created to reduce the amount of scrap tires in stockpiles.
Of course, some people might use their old tires for a new purpose, such as turning them into a tire swing or garden planters. Alternatively, you can check with your local community recycling center for details on how and where to drop off old tires to be recycled.
When old tires get recycled, they’re shipped to a commercial reprocessing plant to be treated with chemicals that break them down into material that can be reused. That material is then ground up into tiny pieces. The EPA estimates there are currently more than 110 different products made out of material that comes from recycled tires. For example, recycled tire material is used to make rubberized asphalt, which in turn is used to resurface many roads.
Recycled tire material also finds its way into all sorts of other products, including: rubber-encased railroad ties, rubber composite decks, sports courts, running tracks, playground surfaces, public walkways, garden mulch, construction backfill, erosion control barriers, and molded automobile parts, such as engine belts and floor mats. In some areas, old tires are burnt as an alternative fuel source to generate power. Although old tires can produce as much as 25% more energy than coal, they also produce a lot of emissions and pollutants that are not eco-friendly.