Tires: Where do they end up?

Day 144 – Back in the day, tires were thrown in a pile or in a landfill. There wasn’t much recycling going on. As the piles got larger and the landfills more crowded, new practices to address old tires were adopted.

So, here is where your old tires end up:

  1. The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association reported that in 2019, 43% of annual scrap tire generation was burned for energy, also known as tire-derived fuel (TDF). More than 40% of TDF goes to cement kilns, but other uses include paper factories and electric companies.
  2. Shredding tires to prepare for scrap tire generation recovers much of the metal in a tire, such as the rim and lead weights used for balance. The metal can be extracted and recycled, leaving crumb rubber to use as fuel.
  3. Crumb rubber can be used as the surface for playgrounds because its soft padding helps prevent injuries. Though there has been some debate about the safety of using crumb rubber, the EPA has conducted studies and has concluded that human exposure to toxins released by the tires is limited.
  4. Old tires even have a purpose in construction. Rubberized asphalt can be used to make longer-lasting roads that produce less traffic noise and is popular in many states.
  5. Rubber from tires is used in running tracks because it causes less stress on runner’s legs.
  6. Tires can also be recycled into new tires. This option is expensive and not the most practical. Hopefully, this option becomes more cost effective as the technology improves.

Thankfully, as a consumer, we don’t have to do much when it comes to recycling tires. Most tire retailers include the cost of recycling into the cost of new tires. You can also check out the list of used tire processors, shared on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency‘s webpage.

A nice tire swing is always an option, too!