More than 290 million scrap tires are generated annually in the US. These tires are a fire hazard and provide habitats for pests that spread disease, like mosquitoes and rodents. Rubber waste from tires can take 2,000 years to decompose if not recycled.

As important as recycling is, many people find themselves unsure of where to start. Here are three simple things you can do, starting today, to decrease the amount of tire waste produced.

Maintain Your Tires

One of the best ways to help in the effort to produce the rubber waste from old tires is to purchase new tires responsibly and properly maintain your current tires. It is important to have your tires replaced every 3-5 years to keep your vehicle functioning safely. However, following these simple guidelines will ensure that you and your family produce fewer scrap tires:

  • Buy quality, durable tires.
  • When possible, buy used tires.
  • Buy retreads when your tires begin to wear out.
  • Between replacements, pay attention to health of your tires.
  • Keep your tires inflated and check the treads.
  • Have your alignment checked, and have your tires balanced and rotated. Not only will this extend the life of your tires, but it will also reduce auto emissions and improve your gas mileage.

Recycle Your Old Tires

When your tires do need to be replaced, recycle your old tires. Many reputable tire dealers accept and dispose of used tires for a nominal fee, or free of charge. If your tire dealer does not take used tires, many towns have tire recycling centers or events where citizens can turn in a limited number of used tires without being charged a fee.

If you are unsure which options are available in your area, contact your local recycling center and landfill. Some landfills have tire recycling or disposal facilities, though many do not accept whole scrap tires.

You may also want to recycle your old tires yourself, turning them into tire swings, planters, or other innovative household items.

Support Tire Recycling Programs

According to the EPA, there is a market for about 80% of all scrap tires. Recycled tires are used for numerous industrial and commercial purposes. Many reclaimed and recycled tires are used in products you encounter daily, but may never be involved in producing, such as rubberized asphalt, fuel, and ground rubber.

However, you can also support tire recycling programs by going out of your way to use products and support projects that utilize recycled rubber. These include: homebuilding and paving materials, running tracks and sports courts, and outdoor playground surfaces.

If the options for tire recycling and repurposing are limited in your area, raise your voice in local meetings, such as your town or city council. Encourage local projects that use scrap rubber, such as art installations and replacing playground woodchips with rubber.

You can make a difference in the effort to reduce the amount of waste from scrap tires by following these simple guidelines. By raising awareness, using and disposing of tires responsibly, and maintaining your vehicle’s tires, you can help the effort to reduce the amount of scrap tires produced.