Tire Recycling -- Why and How - Vol.266
Did you know that more than half the rubber used each year in the United States is made into tires? Or that the US alone generates annually about one scrap tire for every person? Or that there are up to 3 billion scrap tires stockpiled all over the world? In other words, there is a huge number of scrap tires out there. Wouldn't it be just awesome to recycle them?
Uses For Recycled Tires
A tire isn't made only from rubber. Rubber makes only about 40% of a tire. The rest is carbon black (about 30%), steel (about 15%), and other materials. Just imagine the amount of rubber, carbon black, and steel found in scrap tires. New things could be made from them, or at least new tires.
Recycling tires, however, is no easy business. Tires are not only bulky, but also quite heavy. Just imagine how many plastic bottles a tire weighs. And since tires consist of different materials, disposing of them can be quite difficult because separating those materials isn't necessarily a straightforward process.
This is one of the reasons why the majority of recovered tires (60% actually) are turned into tire-derived fuel (TDF). Tires are a good source of fuel because they provide good heating while emitting relatively low levels of sulfur. Apart from fuel, recycled tires can be turned into recycled rubber and reused for the manufacture of new tires; or made into tire chips, which can replace gravel, crushed rock, road fill, and other conventional construction materials; or into lightweight fill for embankments; or even into insulating layers, especially behind retaining walls. Also, recycled tires can be used as daily covers at solid waste landfills.
The Benefits of Recycling Tires
We can derive many advantages from recycling tires instead of stockpiling them in yards and warehouses or around race tracks. More importantly, we help preserve our planet and leave it in better shape for future generations. Here are the key benefits of recycling tires:
1. Pollution is reduced. Tires can be harmful for the environment if they are left to decay and decompose outdoors.
2. Energy consumption is reduced. As already noted, tires can be used as a reliable source of fuel. More specifically, tires can be cut to chips and burned.
3. Through retreading, old tires can be turned into new tires. This helps the tire manufacture industry become more sustainable and more environmentally friendly. The number of tires produced every year is staggering, and most of the necessary materials are harvested directly from nature instead of being recycled from old tires.
4. Mining for sand and gravel is reduced. Both of these natural materials are necessary for the manufacture of new tires. Much of the sand and gravel used in the tire manufacturing industry comes from countries where workers are paid low wages and work in harmful environments.
New Regulations Drive Tire Recycling
Tire recycling is definitely gaining momentum. In the US, Europe, and other parts of the world, governments have established a legal framework to support tire recycling, as a direct response to the environmental problems and health hazards posed by the many abandoned scrap tire piles around the globe. Many of the regulations in place at this moment aim to encourage the removal, disposal, and recycling of large tire piles. This is unsurprising considering that large tire piles pose a great fire hazard -- once they catch fire, it's almost impossible to extinguish them, and they can burn for weeks, even moths, spreading into the air toxic black fumes that pollute the environment.
The Bottom Line
Tire recycling may seem like something that concerns only companies and organizations, but it's relevant for individual car owners as well. Many car owners keep old tires in their garage or backyards, where they don't serve any purpose other than taking up space. These can be recycled. If you too have old tires at home that you don't use anymore, consider handing them over to the nearest recycling facility.