Have you ever gotten a flat tire and wondered what happened to your blown out tire after you got back on the road with a new one? Especially this time of year, when potholes are particularly problematic?

In 2019, three billion automobile tires were produced across the globe. In the United States, truck, automobile, and motorcycle tires are the largest source of rubber currently making up our municipal solid waste (MSW).

Tires are built to last, which makes tire disposal that much more complicated. However, tire recycling initiatives have boomed in the last few decades, leading to sophisticated rubber recycling programs and processes nationwide.

Currently, 110 million tires are recycled by scrap rubber manufacturers in the United States every year. This recycled rubber is then converted into a variety of items, from fuel to shoes.

Read on to learn more about how to recycle used tires and why tire recycling is so crucial for businesses and individuals alike.

Why Should You Recycle Old Tires? The Benefits of Tire Recycling

The growing infrastructure surrounding tire recycling is due in part to the extreme negative effects tire waste has on the environment.

When old tires are illegally dumped or sent to landfills, the subsequent environmental effects can wreak havoc on both humans and nature.

By recycling tires, you can ensure that they have a new life outside of the landfill, and that they pose less of a threat overall.

Environmental Risk

When used tires pile up in landfills, they are not only taking up valuable space, they are an active risk for toxic leaching into the earth and even starting dangerous fires.

In certain volumes and conditions, tire piles can be flammable—spurring dangerous, hard-to-control fires. This immediately and directly affects the surrounding areas and residents, polluting local air, soil, and water.

Burning tires also releases hazardous oils and gas compounds that make their way into the soil and water. By recycling tires, you can help eliminate pileups in landfills or illegal dumping areas, protecting communities from dangerous fires and environmental pollution.

Lower Carbon Footprint

Tires are produced using non-renewable resources, and participating in recycling initiatives helps to prevent the further mining of virgin material.

According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, 18 gallons of gasoline can be saved by recycling just four tires.

Tire Recycling Laws and Compliance

Proper tire disposal laws and regulations will vary state by state. In many states, sending tires to landfills is illegal. However, recycling used tires ensures your business or household is in compliance with local legislation.

Illegal dumping or landfilling fines for tire disposal are common and can be extremely costly. By monitoring local environmental regulations and partnering with a smart waste and recycling solutions platform, you can ensure all waste, including tires, ends up in the right place.

How to Recycle Tires

If you or your business is looking to properly dispose of old or used tires, you have a few options.

State Recycling Programs

In a majority of states, fees have been implemented in the tire purchasing stage to fund recycling programs for their end-of-life stage.

This tax on new tires can range anywhere from $0.50 to $2.00 per tire. This goes towards supporting either tire recycling programs or cleanup initiatives, depending on the state.

Around 48 states currently have some sort of law or regulation in place related to tire waste.
Visit the website of your local waste municipality or recycling hub to see if and what programs are in place to support tire recycling. Your area may offer drop off sites, hauler services, and more.

Buy From Retailers With Tire Recycling Programs

Today, many tire retailers also offer built-in tire recycling programs through their businesses. This means they could accept your old tires upon the purchasing of new ones, or offer a drop off center at their store.

In these cases, you have a sure-fire way of recycling your old tires after purchasing new ones.

Reuse Tires for At-Home Projects

Try reusing old tires for creative projects around the home. Without even changing the structure of the tire, you can easily create tire swings, planters, patio furniture, compost bins, and more.

Work With a Hauler to Develop a Tire Recycling Plan

If you are in partnership with a smart waste and recycling solutions platform, you will likely be able to build tire recycling into your waste program. In this option, a hauler would coordinate the optimal disposal methods for your old tires, making the tire recycling process as hands-off and hassle-free as possible.

What Happens to Recycled Tire Rubber?

The process of recycling tires leads to the reduction of waste and reimagining of valuable nonrenewable resources. But how does tire recycling work?

Tire recycling will occur in one of two ways:

  • Ambient Shredding
  • Cryogenic Processes

Ambient shredding occurs when a tire is shredded at room temperature by specialty tire recycling machines.

Tire recycling centers that use cryogenic processes utilize liquid nitrogen to freeze tires, making them brittle in composition. Then, tire recycling machines are used to smash the brittle tire and grind the material into fine rubber powders.

In both methods, the tire must first be deconstructed to remove any metal or non-rubber elements. Most tires, in addition to rubber, include steel belts and beads, which give the tire its shape. These metals are recovered by tire recycling centers and used in the steel recycling process.

What Can be Made from Recycled Tires?

Old tires can be transformed into a variety of new products through its distinct recycling process.

It is important to recycle tires, as there are outlets for them after they’ve fulfilled their initial intended use on a vehicle. Tires can be used for tire-derived fuel, which can be used to help run different types of facilities. They can also be used as a tire-derived aggregate, which can be used for backfill in construction projects or components in road-stabilization projects. And ground rubber from tires can be used in different landscaping projects, rubberized asphalt, and other rubber products.

New products that can be made from recycled tires include:

  • Fuel
  • Ground rubber
  • Floor mats
  • Belts
  • Gaskets
  • Shoe soles
  • Dock bumpers
  • Sealants
  • Muffler hangers
  • Highway barriers
  • Civil engineering efforts
  • Asphalt
  • Sound barriers
  • Railroad ties
  • Carpet underlay
  • Playground toys and equipment
  • Mulch
  • Equestrian mats
  • Roofing tiles
  • Automobile parts

Recycled tires can also be used in the production and retreading of new tires!

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, 48.6 percent of tires are used as tire-derived fuel (TDF) for fuel generation—making up the highest percentage sector of tire recycling.

Rubicon’s Tire Recycling Solutions

At Rubicon®, we help our customers find appropriate recycling solutions for all of their waste streams. This includes working to extend the life of old tires as much as possible.

Rubicon’s mission is to end waste. That includes ending improper disposal methods of tire waste. For many organizations and individuals, creating a plan around tire recycling initiatives can seem overwhelming. With Rubicon on your side, we do all the heavy lifting.

Our recycling experts at Rubicon work with your organization to build a cost-effective, environmentally friendly tire recycling solution to ensure you are saving money and keeping precious materials out of landfills.

If you have any questions, or you are interested in learning more about Rubicon’s sustainability services, please contact us today.

Meredith Leahy is a Circular Economy Senior Manager at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.