When I come in and get a new set of tires, what happens to my old tires? What happens to all of the old tires?
Curious in Tampa
That’s an excellent question! There are lots of uses for old, discarded tires, as well as lots of things you shouldn’t do with them. Try to imagine how many tires are discarded every year; you may just be thinking about cars, trucks, SUVs, etc., but what about motorcycles, bicycles, tractors and other farm equipment, and planes? There are more tires than you ever thought of!
In the past few years, as people have focused more and more on the environment, the question of what to do with all of these tires has been given a lot of thought. Generally, when we think of taking care of the earth, we think of the first thing we taught our children about being responsible stewards of the planet: reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s kind of like “Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten.” Stick to the basics and you can make a big difference.
Reduce: Want to reduce the number of tires being discarded every year? Start with your own car by taking care of your tires and properly maintaining them. That means checking the tire pressure and tread, having the alignment and balance checked, and rotating the tires when necessary.
Reuse: There are ways for you to reuse tires around your own home or in community projects. Think about making a tire swing for your kids, use them as planters or for unique art projects, or use them to help improve your young athlete’s accuracy by hanging them and having them throw a baseball, football, etc. through the middle (works for archery too!). Old tires can also be used as bumpers for boats, go carts or other recreational vehicles. Use your imagination! Using old tires keeps them out of landfills and scrap tire yards—and it makes you use your imagination!
Recycle: More and more things are being created all the time from recycled tires! To recycle a tire, you have to disassemble it and melt down the parts: rubber, steel and other materials. Then you can reshape these elements and create something new like the solid tires used on lawn mowers and toys. Tire rubber is also excellent for making rubber bands and belts that are used in automobile engines—and in making asphalt! Per the EPA, there are at least 110 new products made with recyclable tire rubber and 12 million scrap tires per year used to build highways.
Want more? You can grind up old tire rubber and use it as mulch or as filler on athletic fields. Want to really get the most out of old tires? Old rubber can be ground up and used to build “Earthships,” energy efficient homes made from bricks that are essentially earth and ground up rubber.
If you’re wondering how safe it is to have all of this rubber ground up and used as mulch or to create playing fields, checkout the RMA’s (Rubber Manufacturer’s Association) webpage, Scrap Tires and the Environment.
As far as what you shouldn’t do with your old tires, you shouldn’t dump them illegally or burn them. Discarded tires that pile up in vacant lots are breeding grounds for mosquitoes (standing water inside of them) and rats; burning tires releases toxic fumes and these fires are very difficult to extinguish. Rats are just creepy, folks; and don’t we have enough mosquitoes already? I get eaten up every time I step outside! And don’t get me started on air pollution!
If you need to get rid of some of your old tires, look for a recycling business in your area. More and more businesses recycle tires, and it won’t be too hard to find someone to help you out. At RNR, we have a service that disposes of or recycles tires that can’t be used anymore. Ask us for advice if you’re stuck about what to do with your old tires!