Tires Made from Dandelions

Day 305 – Tires are made up of a naturally white rubber in which carbon black (pigment) is added to increase the strength and durability of the rubber. It also resists hot spots on the tires. Each year, automobiles produce 246 million waste tires in the United States alone.

So where do old tires go?

  • 26% Ground into filler for asphalt and insulation.
  • 11% Dumped into landfills, where a tire takes hundreds of years to decompose.
  • 7% Blended into road beds, barriers, retaining walls, and other civil- engineering uses.
  • 7% Recycled into things like playground surfaces and tire swings.
  • 49% Burned for fuel. Tire rubber has more energy (Btu) than coal but, like any solid fuel, tires burn dirty, requiring energy to clean the particulates.

Thankfully, there are companies creating tires using sustainable materials. Michelin has spent more than $800 million a year researching sustainability so it can make tires out of root vegetables. Continental Constructing Tires are made from dandelions.

Here are some interesting facts about the dandelion tires.

  1. Not just any dandelion – Continental has tapped the Russian dandelion as the dandelion of choice. This plant is a larger, more robust variant and can be produced in mass quantities. The roots of the Russian dandelion are less sensitive to weather than the dandelions in your yard and the roots are roughly the size of a large carrot.
  2. Where in the world – Russian dandelions thrive in a large part of the world and can be cultivated on land not suitable for food production. Conversely, rubber trees require a hot, damp climate and grow only in a small part of the world known as, the “Rubber Belt,” an equatorial zone that stretches around the world.
  3. Growth cycle – The growth cycle of a rubber tree is seven years whereas the growth cycle of a Russian dandelion is one year.
  4. Testing complete – The first test tires were produced in summer 2014 from the WinterContact TS 850 P series and were tested in Sweden and at the Contidrom proving grounds in Germany with great success.
  5. When will we see them – Continental plans to manufacture consumer road tires made from dandelion-derived rubber within the next five to 10 years.

Innovative ideas like these are going to help save the planet!

Tomorrow, a look at the Climate Summit.

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!