Mother Earth Living

Talking Trash: New Life for Tired Tires

Tires can illegally end up in scrap piles causing damage to the environment. Find out how to recycle old tires.
By Summer McElley
September/October 2002
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Roughly 800 million tires have accumulated in scrap piles around the United States. These tire piles collect rainwater and become breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes and other insects. Tire piles are also prone to fires, which can burn for months. Burning tires emit thick black smoke and toxic gas, and the rubber decomposes into oil, which can pollute ground and surface water.

Because of these problems, thirty-five states prohibit landfill disposal of whole tires and have passed strict scrap tire regulations that require shredding and grinding before tires are put into landfills or used for alternatives such as highway surfacing, playground equipment, construction materials, landfill covers, and products for the home.

Vulcanization—the process of hardening rubber to create long-lasting tires—makes it impossible to create new tires from old ones because vulcanized tires don’t melt down effectively. Retreaded tires, available at any dealership, contain 75 percent recycled rubber and use only 30 percent of the energy needed to produce a new tire. Retreads cost one-third less than new tires and are subject to the same strict quality and safety standards. Statistics show that retreads perform just as well as new tires if proper maintenance guidelines are followed.

Give your tires a long life.

•Buy long-lasting tires with a tread wear grade of 200 or more.

•Better yet, buy retreaded tires, which carry a warranty and mileage comparable to that of new tires.

•Maintain recommended inflation levels.

•Rotate and balance tires at least twice a year and check alignment every 6,000 miles.

•Drive gently.

•Replace tires when the wear bar appears; once they’re bald, they can’t be retreaded.

Products made from recycled tires:

Close the Loop
Kunkletown, PA
(866) 629-8414
Welcome mats, tire swings, rubber mulch

Lancaster, PA
(717) 295-3400
ECOsurfaces flooring
Wilmington, DE
Sandals from recycled materials

Green Mountain Technologies
Whitingham, VT
(802) 368-7291
Home compost bins

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