Tires were built to last practically forever. For your car and most other vehicles, this is a good thing. For the environment, not so much. Here’s how you can help:
Tire replacement is necessary once the threads are less than 1.6 millimeters (1/16 inch) in depth. It’s no longer safe for vehicular use, but there’s still a lot of rubber left behind. A typical practice in the past meant all of that rubber went straight to landfills. Good thing, people have discovered how dangerous that could be.
Stockpiles, Pools, and Fires
Left in landfills, tires can build up to dangerous stockpiles over acres of land. Physically, if that mountain of tires collapses, the weight can crush anything — and anyone — in its way. In terms of public health, when rainwater collects in these tires, these become a breeding ground for mosquitoes or a nest for vermin. These, in turn, can spread diseases to nearby communities. These stockpiles are also a fire hazard. As tires have a lot of oil in it, these can burn for a long time and spew toxins and greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
An Appropriate Response
Rubber takes more than 50 years to decompose. This means the mountains of tires could date back decades and keep growing if no one takes action. States spend money to stop these mountains from growing and, fortunately, there are companies that focus solely on recycling tires.
Tossed and Shredded, then Repurposed
The amount of oil in tires makes them comparable to crude oil in generating energy. A huge chunk of recycled tire rubber is used for tire-derived fuel. As whole tires will be unable to fit through the furnace, tires of all sizes (from car tires to OTR tires) are put through a tire recycling machine. Western Tire Recyclers noted that these machines shred down tires to more manageable pieces and recover the residual metals. These scraps become either fuel or filling material.
The next time you need to replace tires, consider returning them to your provider for recycling, or directly to a tire recycling facility. This reduces the time tires spend in landfills and allows them to be directly processed for recycling, protecting you and the environment at the same time.