Published Nov 23, 2015
Maybe you’ve never heard of crumb rubber, where it comes from, or what it does, but it’s an incredibly versatile and useful product. More specifically, it’s a byproduct, which means it’s produced by processing something else.
In this case, it comes from recycled tires.
Recycling tires produces a number of inexpensive byproducts that are then used to create and supplement many important and beneficial products.
While you might not usually think of a tire as something that can make the world a better place, but recycling certainly can. And with crumb rubber from processed tires, we can actually make the world a safer place for people.
Here are places where crumb rubber is working to make life better:
1. Sports fields
One of the most common uses for crumb rubber is as an element in new running tracks and fields for sports. Using rubber material for these surfaces means we don’t have use water or other resources to maintain grass. It also gives a springiness and elasticity that reduces major injuries for athletes.
Crumb rubber is also used to create safer, energy-efficient surfaces for kids’ playgrounds. Just like in sports arenas, it makes serious injuries less likely, including injuries from falls that would be worse on traditional wood mulch and much more critical on harder surfaces like concrete.
Despite concerns about carcinogens being present in crumb rubber, multiple agencies in multiple countries, including the US, have determined that there is no elevated risk of cancer from products or surfaces using crumb rubber. The EPA also approved its use for playground surfaces.
Rubberized asphalt is another big-ticket use for this inexpensive material. It’s actually the biggest use for it, since it was discovered that adding crumb rubber to asphalt makes roads last longer and need fewer repairs.
Because the rubber keeps its elasticity better than asphalt does, over time, as the asphalt ages, the added rubber helps keep cracks, holes, and other issues from forming that would require repairs or repaving. That means safer roads for drivers and fewer tax dollars needed for road maintenance.
One of the biggest benefits of producing and using crumb rubber is that it keeps tires out of landfills. Because of their size and shape, they take up a lot of space in a landfill. They can make homes for pests as well as collect pools of water that breed insects like mosquitos and others that spread diseases.
In addition, tires in landfills sometimes trap methane gas, which can then break down the barriers used to keep toxins and pollutants in the landfill from leaking out into the environment.
As you can see, recycling tires is important not just because dumping them in a landfill causes problems (which it does). It’s important because the products made from recycled tires, especially from crumb rubber, have so much potential and use value. They’re cost-effective, and they improve safety for everyone from kids on the playground to drivers on the road.