Retired Tires

Dear Tracy,

My dad recently made my little brothers a couple of tire swings from old tires, when he had to replace two tires on his truck. I think this is a great way to use old tires, but now I am wondering about other uses for old tires. Are there many ways to repurpose old tires, and keep them from going to landfills?

Rob R.

Dear Rob,

Concerns about the environment and good old fashioned creativity have lead to a lot of great ideas for how tires can be re-used. Below is a list of some of the ways that old tires can be beneficial after their primary useful life has expired:

Retreads: Old tires can be recycled into new tires. Called “retreads”, these tires are widely used on trucks and on airplanes.  Not all tires can be retreaded; they must be thoroughly inspected for damage, wear, and manufacturing defects. A large number of tires must be scrapped. In this case, the following uses are great options.

Energy from Tires: Almost half of all old scrap tires are used for energy. They are burned as fuel in factories and power plants. Cement kilns, paper mills and electric plants are examples of operations that use either whole or shredded scrap tires for energy. This keeps millions of tires from landfills and helps reduce the need for fossil fuels. Though burning tires releases gases and noxious substances, from an environmental standpoint, the output is cleaner than that of many other fuel sources.

Construction: Many states shred scrap tires and use the material in roads and other construction projects. This use for old tires is becoming more widespread. Scrap tire rubber is an inexpensive, lightweight product used to fill underneath roads where bogs, clay or other weak soils that cause construction complications. Scrap tires are also beneficial in sound walls, bridge foundations and even landfill development. Scrap tires can be shredded and used in liners, daily covers and other parts of the operation of a landfill.

Ground rubber: Instead of shredding scrap tires, sometimes tires are ground into tiny rubber pebbles for rubberized asphalt, or ground rubber mixed with conventional asphalt. Research shows rubberized asphalt lasts longer, creates lower road noise, and requires shorter stopping distances. Ground rubber is also used for patio decks, running tracks and the pliable black surface that is used in school playgrounds.