How to Recycle Tires
Tires are one of the coolest products to recycle because they can be turned into such a wide variety of products. Your flat tire could end up burned off as fuel, turned into playground equipment or even used to make artificial turf.
Sponsored by Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.
Tire Recycling Preparation
- Before disposing of tires, ask an auto shop if your old tires can be retreaded or repaired. Either option prolongs the life of your tires and is cheaper than buying new tires.
- If you are having tires replaced at an auto shop, ask if the shop will recycle the old tires for you. Depending on where you live, the cost of new tires may include a tax that funds the disposal of your old tires, or disposal may be included in the service charge.
- If recycling tires yourself, you’ll need to remove the rim and wheel weights first. Luckily, the rim is made of aluminum and the weights are made of steel — both valuable metals you can recycle as scrap. Warning: You should have experience using power tools if you’re going to cut the tire off the rim yourself. Please exercise caution.
- Before recycling tires, consider a reuse project for them. Besides the obvious option of making a tire swing, they make great planters in your garden or compost bins.
Why Recycle Tires
- We dispose of 300 million tires per year in the U.S. — almost one per person.
- Tires in a landfill trap water that attracts rodents and mosquitoes. They also consume a lot of space, trap methane emissions and create a fire risk — and tire fires are difficult to extinguish.
- One of the leading uses for recycled tires is tire-derived fuel (TDF). TDF is an alternative to fossil fuels and produces 25 percent more energy than coal.
Frequent Tires Recycling Questions
Most municipalities have banned tires from landfills, meaning you’ll need to bite the bullet and pay for recycling instead of throwing them away.
During tire recycling, these weights must be removed and separately recycled. They used to be made of lead, a heavier and more toxic metal, but steel is the most recycled material on earth.
The rest of the shredded tire can be used for various purposes. If it is destined for TDF, the material is sent to an incinerator, boiler or cement kiln, depending on the facility that will use the tire for energy. Other uses for shredded and ground tires include rubberized asphalt, playground mulch, road embankments, or even as material for new tires.
When a stack of tires catches fire, it’s an uncontrolled process. These fires are extremely difficult to extinguish, produce much smoke and release toxic chemicals into the air. Tire fires are a significant concern if used tires are not recycled.
- RecycledRubberFacts.org: Learn more about what happens to recycled tires
- Recycling Mysteries: Tires: More background about tire recycling in the U.S.
- Take These 8 Creative Ways to Repurpose Tires Out for a Spin: Check out some creative alternatives to tire disposal
- Used Tires Get New Life with Quest Recycling: Find out how the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, partnered to recycle its tires