Can Tires Be Recycled?

Our environment is proving more fragile with each passing year. Our lifestyles have affected our ecosystem, making it even more important than ever before to exercise conscientious recycling methods. Tires are among the items we should recycle as a rule, rather than on occasion. Unfortunately, these items have stacked up everywhere on the planet, piling up in backyards, empty lots and even stream beds. An increase in tire durability has proven to be a double-edged sword, also making them harder to recycle.

Still, any tire can be recycled. According to goodtirecalgary.ca, you only need to find the right place to do so, where your cast-offs can serve a better purpose.


Issues with Tire Recycling

Tire recycling is often made more troublesome than necessary, particularly when people just thoughtlessly throw these items away. Dumping them is a major issue for the planet, with more than 400 million irresponsibly discarded in North America each year.

A tire creates more than an eyesore when dumped in the environment. Because rubber and their rounded shape hold water for long periods, they foster mosquito breeding and help diseased animals thrive. Large quantities are often burned outdoors, creating toxic and thick black smoke.

In landfills, the rounded shape that makes a ride smoother only serves to make a tire take up more space. They trap methane and other gases in their rubber shell. Even landfill liners cannot keep these wheel coverings contained. They have a tendency to rise up in the turned debris, ripping through coverings designed to contain discarded matter.


The Tire Recycling Process

Recycling and reuse has improved over recent years, thanks to increased regulations and emerging technologies focused on the environment. There are now more uses for old tire material than ever before.

One of the professions focused on reusing old tire rubber is civil engineering. These engineers have successfully incorporated tire shreds into the construction of roads, particularly for embankments and below-grade fill. The material reduces vibrations for railway lines. When mixed with concrete or asphalt, chipped tire rubber benefits roads and other construction.

Shredded tire rubber is effective for absorbing shock, making it an excellent ground cover for playgrounds, running tracks and other sports facilities. This material helps prevent injuries in these areas, every day. Because they are so durable, tires also make excellent dock bumpers. The ground material works well in the development of sidewalks, street curbs and roadway edging. Speed bumps and crash bumpers on highways are also made of cast-out tire rubber.

Since tire materials like oil and rubber effectively burn, some industries use this debris for fuel. Tire derived fuel, TDF, helps factories make pulp, paper and cement. The material also benefits the electrical utility industry. Surprisingly, tire emissions when used as fuel prove less than or in the same range as traditional fossil fuels. It all comes down to properly burning TDF to realize this benefit.

Individuals are even using old tire rubber for other purposes around their homes. Examples include tire swings, garden borders and planters, home furnishings, art, flooring and shoe soles.

Close up of old shredded tires on pile

Statistics of Tire Recycling

The United States is one of the largest markets for tire use and recycling. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the U.S. and the Rubber Manufacturers Association report that 290 million are thrown out in this country each year. About 233 million of these make it into repurposing or recycling. 130 million are used as tire-derived fuel.

A retread of an old tire can make it new again and available for safe use on a vehicle. About 16 million retreads are made each year. The process requires fewer resources like oil than the crafting of a new tire. Civil engineering purposes, like those explored above, use about 56 million of these wheel coverings.


Tire Recycling Methods

The best way for vehicle owners to recycle a tire is to have the service station or other tire replacement facility dispose of the used items when replaced with new ones. Many cities and even smaller communities also sponsor programs to accept tire donations to prevent dumping.

The best method of recycling these auto parts is to prolong their use by keeping them in good working order. Routine auto maintenance like inspection and keeping them properly inflated, rotating and balancing service and proper alignment can make wheels last longer.


Tire Recycling Preparation

To properly dispose of a tire, you first need to ask your auto repair shop whether it qualifies for retreading or repair. This can prolong tire life and costs less than buying a replacement.

When retreading is not possible, and you need a replacement, ask your auto shop if they provide a recycling service. Disposal is typically part of the tire replacement process and fee.

When you need to recycle a tire on your own, first remove the aluminum rim and steel wheel weights. You can recycle these, too. Consider whether you have a project in which you can reuse your tire material, such as for a tire swing, compost bins or garden planters. If not, take your used tire to an appropriate tire recycling facility.

Unfortunately, it typically costs a little money to have a tire recycled. But you can profit from aluminum rim scrap metal recycling at a scrap metal dealer. This can help pay for your recycling service. Today, most cities do not allow tire dumping in landfills. This means you have to take your cast-outs to a legitimate recycling facility. You can also ask your local auto repair shop if they accept them for recycling. Most charge a small fee for this service, unless you are getting your replacement tire through them.


How is a tire recycled?

As explained above, the first step toward tire recycling is removal of the rims and weights. Then, the recycler typically grinds or shreds the tire in a shredder. These shredders or made specifically for this purpose and use powerful blades to rip and tear the rubber into small chunks. Fibre and steel from the tire are separated as part of this process. The recycler can sell that material to other industries.

Shredded tire material serves many purposes. These include being used for fuel as TDF. TDF is used in incinerators, boilers and cement kilns as energy. Shredded tire material can also be converted into rubberized asphalt, roadway embankments, playground mulch, running tracks or new tires, as some examples. The shoe industry also reuses tire rubber for shoe soles.


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