Whether you are a car owner or the head of a corporation, deciding to recycle the used tires that fall into your hands is a responsible and eco-friendly decision. However, because tires contain several materials (including trace elements of heavy metals) it is important that they are disposed of properly. Here are some common kinds of disposal and their preparation requirements.
When a tire is retreaded, the tread (the grooves on the outside of the tire) is removed and replaced. This process retains about 90% of the tire’s original material and costs 20% of the price of manufacturing brand new tires. Retreaded tires are completely safe and are a great way to reduce the amount of energy and materials required for tire production.
If you are considering having your tires retreaded or donating scrap tires to a retreading company, do a visual inspection of the tires. For a tire to be successfully retreaded, the casing (the part of the tire under the tread) needs to be intact. Remove any debris and take the tire to a retreading company.
Some defects, like small punctures, can be repaired during the process, but extensive damage to the casing eliminates the possibility of successful retreading.
Tires that cannot be retreaded can be turned into other products—from asphalt to shoe soles. Some products are created by for stamping, punching, or cutting tires. Before these tires can be processed, the steel bead in the tread must be removed.
Other kinds of repurposing require different kinds of preparation, such as:
- Shredding. Shredded tires are easier for workers and machinery to handle. Most shredders use two rotating shaft cutters to shred tires into 2-inch strips.
- Chipping. Chipping machines divide the tire into smaller pieces which are then sorted by grade (or particle size). This can be done with whole tires or after shredding.
Tire shreds and the crumb rubber created from chipping are used to produce asphalt, tire-derived fuel, ground rubber, and many other industrial and agricultural products.
If you plan to become a tire recycler or add tire recycling to your business, you will need equipment to remove the steel bead from tires, shred them, and chip them.
But if you just have a set of scrap tires to donate, don’t worry about this kind of preparation. Ask your dealer, junk yard, or tire recycler about their requirement for tire donations and let them handle the rest of the prep work.
Landfill or Monofill Disposal
Recycled tires can be used for many things, but currently only about 80% of scrap tires are retreaded or repurposed each year. This means that some tires will inevitably end up in landfills or monofills (a landfill for a single type of waste, such as rubber). If you must dispose of scrap tires this way, there are still measures you should take. These include:
- Researching your state’s specific regulations. Most states do not allow whole tires to be placed in landfills (38 of the 50). 35 states allow shredded tires to be placed in landfills, 8 states have no restrictions on tires being placed in landfills, and 17 states allow processed tires to be placed in monofills.
- Supporting tire disposal efforts. Many disposal companies and landfills charge a fee for tire disposal—usually $5 or less per tire. This fee is part of the state-wide legislation regarding tire disposal. It may not be fun to pay money for the privilege of throwing tires away, but the money goes toward recycling efforts and research.
Contact your local recyclers with any questions about your area’s regulations and requirements for tire recycling. Disposing of tires correctly is as important as buying durable tires and conducting proper maintenance to prolong the life of your tires. Take these steps to prepare your scrap tires for proper recycling.
Information from the Environmental Protection Agency and Western Rubber Group.