Your old tires have an enormous recycling potential other than a tire swing in your backyard. In 2003, the EPA stated that 290 million scrap tires were generated. Most of these tires were recycled, but 27 million of them came to be wasted in landfills. Many tire retailers and recycling plants accept scrapped tires for purposes of recycling. For example, if you want to recycle your Nitto tires from Discount Tire, you’ll only have to pay a disposal fee for Discount Tire to properly dispose of your tires with licensed disposal services.
Because the heating value of tires is so high, they are a prime fuel. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 130 million scrapped tires were used for fuel in 2003— that’s approximately 45 percent of total generated scrap tires. Shredded tires are an advantageous source of fuel: they produce equal amounts of energy as oil and 25 percent more energy than coal, all while resulting in lower nitrogen oxide emissions in comparison to U.S. coals.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association reported that in 2004, the 130 million scrap tires were used as tire-derived fuel (TDF) for the following industries:
Dedicated tire-to-energy facilities – 8 percent
Industrial & institutional boilers – 13 percent
Electric utilities – 18 percent
Pulp and paper mills – 20 percent
Cement industry – 41 percent
State departments of transportation have been utilizing rubberized asphalt concrete in greater numbers. Ground tire rubber is blended with asphalt to enhance the utility of asphalt in highway construction. According to the EPA, ground tire rubber or crumb rubber is beneficial in the following ways: reduced road maintenance, lengthened road surface lifespans, cost-effectiveness, shorter braking distances and less road noise.
Like rubberized asphalt for roads, ground tire rubber can also be used for other public services.
Playground Surfaces— Tire rubber mulch is often used in lieu of woodchips or sand in public or school playgrounds. When kids take a spill on these playgrounds, they won’t end up with skinned knees and splinters. Rubber mulch is both sustainable and safer for children.
Sport Fields— Tires can be reconstituted as a soil additive in playing fields. This additive not only increases the field’s resiliency but improves drainage and engenders stronger grass root structure. In addition to fields, recycled tires are often incorporated into running tracks to decrease impact and leg stress for runners.
Why rebuild homes with wooden logs when you can build with tire logs? After the calamitous earthquakes of Haiti and Chile, tire logs have proven effective in rebuilding, according to TreeHugger.com. They’re absent from toxins found in retreated wood and because they don’t need to be grounded, tire logs save energy. Civil engineering projects have incorporated these largely earthquake-resistant rubber logs for sandbag replacements to control erosion, sea walls, highway noise barriers and building materials in general. Commercial buildings have also found use for tires as shingles, roof tiles and carpet floor underlayment.
[Ron Nielsen, the author of this article, is a blogger and fiction writer from Phoenix.]
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