Maybe when you began researching how to dispose of old tires in your shed, you started doom-scrolling climate news. There are plenty of headlines to feed our eco-anxiety. But it just so happens you’ve stumbled upon an environmental success story.
The way you dispose of old tires nowadays is a far cry from hazardous disposal methods decades ago. Today, tire disposal is a hopeful lesson. With a bit of creative problem-solving, we can reshape the way we manage materials currently damaging our environment. Rethinking everything we toss in drawstring trash bags will help us solve the climate crisis.
We’ll tell you how tires went from environmental catastrophe to poster child for the circular economy. And we’ll tell you how you can take part in this environmental success story when you dispose of old tires.
Dark Days of Tire Disposal
Americans dispose of about 300 million tires each year. And old tires weren’t always recycled or repurposed like they are today. Back in 1990, about 90 percent of scrapped tires languished in giant stockpiles or landfills. Millions of old tires exposed to the sun and elements were ruinous for people and the climate.
In those conditions, tires become safe havens for rodents such as rats. And the rainwater that pools within the tire become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. But the pests scurrying or buzzing around in the vicinity of tire heaps weren’t the biggest problem with tire disposal.
Left in the hot sun or in overheated storage buildings, tires sometimes caught fire. The immense blazes spewed choking black smoke for miles. Water runoff from rain or firefighting efforts sent dangerous chemicals into waterways. Worst of all, these tire infernos are extremely difficult to put out. Tire fires commonly burned for months, wreaking havoc on the nearby environment.
In 1983, a stockpile of seven million tires in Rhinehart, Virginia caught fire. The resulting fire burned for nine months. A plume of smoke rose 3,000 feet into the air and was carried up to 50 miles away. And in 1999, runoff from the Westley Tire Fire in California sent 500,000 gallons of oil into a stream.
Fires like these are why a majority of states have made it illegal to knowingly send used tires to the landfill.
Source: ILIA Neznaev/Shutterstock.com
New Uses for Recycled Tires
In a relatively short amount of time, we went from dumping nearly all of our used tires to repurposing about 80 percent of old tires for beneficial use.
Unprocessed tires burning rampantly in uncontrolled conditions certainly makes for an environmental nightmare. But those same tires processed into rubber pellets and burned in incinerators make for an inexpensive fuel that is surprisingly more eco-friendly than alternatives.
Nearly half of repurposed tire waste becomes tire-derived fuel (TDF). TDF is a greener, cheaper alternative to fossil fuels. Capable of generating more heat than coal, TDF also produces fewer greenhouse gases.
TDF is mostly used in industrial and manufacturing facilities, such as cement manufacturing and the paper industry. However, around 24 million tires are burned each year to make electricity for homes.
About a quarter of scrap tires are ground into smaller pieces. After the metal is removed, the small rubber granules are used in a variety of new rubber products. Ground rubber is used for surfaces for sports facilities, carpet underlay, construction products and more.
Roads and Other Civil Engineering
Shredded pieces from about 19 million tires each year are used in a variety of engineering projects. When used in road construction, rubber shreds reduce traffic vibration and noise. Rubber can be used in everything from retaining walls to culverts to cement mixtures.
Disposing of Old Tires
You can do your part to ensure old tires find an eco-friendly new life by properly disposing of your scrap tires.
Call Your Waste Management Facility
Many facilities will accept large items like tires for a small fee. Ask your waste management facility if they will send your old tires to a recycling processor.
Check Your State’s EPA
If you have a lot of scrap tires on your property, check with your state’s EPA website to find out if you qualify for no-cost tire removal.
Call Tire Retail Stores or Auto Repair Shops
Some of these businesses will dispose of your old tire for a fee.
Be Part of Tire Disposal’s Success Story
The next time you start feeling depressed about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or fast fashion overflowing our landfills, remember the transformation story about tire disposal. When public outcry pushes the creation of new regulations, an environmental disaster can change into an eco-win.
And you can take part in the emerging circular economy. When you dispose of old tires properly, you’re preventing the depletion of natural resources and reducing waste. You further reduce the depletion of natural resources by purchasing environmentally friendly bags from Plasticplace.com.