Disposing of tires is a little trickier than getting rid of a bottle.
If you’re having old tires replaced at an auto shop, the workers will take care of the removal process for you.
But when you’re suddenly responsible for throwing them out yourself, there are some important things to know.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how to dispose of a tire properly, the environmental impact of rubber, and the future of tires in the automotive industry.
So, let’s go burn some rubber and dive into the world of tire disposal.
1. What is a Tire Made of?
Tires are a hodgepodge of materials that are mixed together to create something strong, durable, and flexible.
So, what’s in them?
Here are the most common materials found in tires:
Natural and synthetic rubber
Even though tires appear to be dark pieces of rubber, they actually have an intricate design.
Tires have multiple layers, starting with an inner liner and moving to body plies, steel belts, sidewalls, and tread.
The materials used throughout the various layers can cause major environmental and health issues, which is what makes tires a special case when it comes to disposal.
But before we talk about how to dispose of a tire, let’s first see how long an average tire is expected to last.
2. How Long Does the Average Tire Last?
According to the federal Department of Transportation, there are 250 million scrap tires that have to be disposed of annually.
When you consider these numbers, the issue of how to dispose of a tire properly seems a bit more serious, and it should!
The automotive industry has been putting a big emphasis on electric vehicles and turning away from fossil fuels, but ultimately, the push to create a new and improved tire isn’t at the head of the discussion.
So, let’s move into why tires shouldn’t be put into the trash and break down the right way to go about the process.
3. Should Tires Be Put with Regular Trash?
Tires should not be placed with regular trash, nor should you place them on the side of the road to be collected by a garbage truck.
Not only is putting tires in the trash or side of the street the improper way to dispose of them, but it’s also illegal–some counties do allow curbside disposal.
Does that seem a bit extreme?
Well, the laws are in place for good reason.
Tires are non-biodegradable.
If tires were brought to the landfill, which sometimes happens, they would take up an extraordinary amount of space for 50 to 80 years.
Five to eight decades of decomposition may not seem long compared to plastics, some of which never decompose; however, it’s still a long time that creates spatial issues in landfills.
Additionally, the various materials that make up a tire can pollute the surrounding area, so tires definitely need to be separated from regular trash.
4. How to Dispose of a Tire Properly?
When it comes to properly disposing of a tire, you have a handful of options to choose from.
The form of disposal may be contingent on local regulations, so make sure to read up on tire disposal laws in your region.
Here are places tires can be properly disposed of:
Tire Retailers (Auto Shops)
Tire retailers are almost always willing to accept old tires and take care of the disposal process for you.
If you’re getting your tires changed, the shop may add a small disposal fee to the installation price.
Likewise, if you are dropping off an old pair of tires, you will likely pay less than $10 for the disposal of each tire.
You should always call tire retailers before arriving to ensure they accept old tires and to compare fees.
Tire Recycling Facilities
Dropping off tires at a recycling facility is a quick and easy form of disposal; these facilities are usually where auto shops take old tires.
Expect to pay a small fee, less than $10 per unit.
Contact your local recycling facilities to find out which ones accept tires.
If there isn’t a facility near you, but you want to make sure your old tires get recycled and not put in a landfill, find out which local auto shops are able to recycle them.
Local Waste Management Facilities
Your local waste management facilities, such as landfills, sometimes accept old tires, depending on local regulations.
There may be designated time periods when you can drop off tires, so make sure to call and ask before showing up with a truck full of them.
Some waste management facilities charge a fee for the service, while others do not.
Tire Amnesty Events
Local governments will sometimes organize tire amnesty events, which offer free tire disposal services to the public.
There will likely be a drop-off point or pickup service that accepts large quantities of tires.
These events usually take place once a year, so check your local government’s schedule as soon as possible to ensure you don’t miss out.
Leaving tires on the curb for trash pickup is illegal in many counties.
However, some places, such as Orange County, Florida, allow residents to leave tires on the side of the road for large item pickup.
Check out your local laws before placing tires on the street to avoid paying an unexpected fine.
5. Can Tires Be Recycled?
Tires can be recycled, but the process isn’t as simple as melting the rubber and reusing it.
Because there are a number of materials and chemicals within a tire, there are multiple methods to extract certain components.
Here are a few of the common methods used by tire recycling facilities:
Shredding/grinding: Shredding is typically the first step in the recycling process as it helps break down tires to a smaller, more manageable size (sometimes tires also go through a grinding process).
The scraps are then sorted, which has many steps, such as using magnets, shake screens, wind sifters, and vacuum suction.
Pyrolysis heating: Pyrolysis is a thermal heating decomposition process that separates tires into four forms: steel, oil, char, and gas.
Once the process is over and everything has been separated, the solid, liquid, and gas products can be shipped off to be used in a number of ways, such as fuel, construction materials, other tires, and more.
Devulcanization: When tires are made, they go through a vulcanization process, which enhances their durability and strength.
Devulcanization, on the other hand, is used in the recycling process to break down the tires’ sulfur bonds, allowing the rubber to be used again to create new tires.
The devulcanization process may include a chemical, shredding, or heating process.
6. What Are Ways You Can Reuse Old Tires at Home?
Before you take your old tires to a recycling facility, have you thought about repurposing them?
There are a lot of fun, decorative, and efficient ways to reuse your tires around the house and in the garden.
So, let’s brainstorm a handful of ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Here are some ways you can reuse old tires:
Create fun, colorful planters
Make a dog bed
Design a tire coffee table
Hang a tire swing
Make backyard tire ponds
Fill a tire with sand for a small sandbox
Use a tire to store a hose
Stack tires to create a storage bin
Put shelving inside the tire for a fun decorative piece
Build an earthship
Tires provide a great foundation for a number of different purposes.
With a little paint, you can create a quirky piece of decoration or furniture that looks great and helps the environment–who doesn’t want that?
The best part is that if you no longer want to use your tire decorations, you always have the option to recycle them.
7. How Do Improperly Disposed of Tires Impact the Environment?
If you don’t know how to dispose of a tire, it can lead to big environmental problems.
Because there are so many tires that need to be discarded each year, there’s not much room for error.
So, let’s check out what issues tires can cause.
Here are the environmental impacts of improperly disposed tires:
Tires can be massively detrimental to local ecosystems when they are discarded in lakes, rivers, forests, and oceans.
Due to tires’ size and durability, they can physically alter environments, blocking water flow, preventing plant growth, and reducing biodiversity.
Large stockpiles of tires are not your typical fire hazard.
Yet, when tires burn, they burn for a long time and release extremely harmful gases into the environment, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.
If a stockpile of tires were to catch on fire, it would be devastating for nearby communities and ecosystems.
Water and Soil Pollution
As tires deteriorate, they begin releasing toxins into the surrounding water and soil.
If enough pollutants are released, it can completely wipe out life in bodies of water and cause soil to be less fertile.
When tires are discarded near natural resources that local communities depend on, it could negatively impact human health.
Tires are not only dangerous, but they’re also an eyesore.
Beautifully serene places of nature can suddenly appear like a dump when someone discards a truck full of tires.
Since tires attract rodents and mosquitoes, it can also make these areas less comfortable to spend time in.
8. What Are the Benefits of Property Disposing of Tires?
Recycling tires is a wonderful action step to fight against toxins entering the environment.
But that’s not all!
Since hundreds of millions of tires get recycled each year, recycling tires can stimulate the economy.
Here are all the benefits of recycling tires:
Results in new products
Old tires can turn into wonderful new products.
Recycling materials often makes it cheaper to produce items, bringing costs down for both producers and consumers.
One of the most useful byproducts of recycling tires is tire-derived fuel.
When this fuel is used, it emits less harmful gas than others.
Reduces pollution/carbon footprint
Recycling tires reduces pollution in several ways.
Creating new products from old tires means that less energy has to be used to manufacture the goods.
Spending less energy results in a smaller carbon footprint and a cleaner planet.
Additionally, tires contain harmful chemicals that can leach into the environment when improperly disposed of.
Conserves landfill space
Tires can take more than 80 years to decompose.
The world is only so big, and there are only so many places to bury trash.
Recycling tires minimizes the amount of space they take up in landfills, which helps alleviate some of the pressure from waste management programs.
Prevents rodents, insects, and diseases
Rodents and insects, such as mosquitos and rats, love to make homes out of tires.
These pesky pests can introduce diseases to the area and create infestation problems.
Because tires retain water, mosquitoes are especially problematic, and they can bring in a number of potentially fatal viruses, such as the West Nile Virus.
Disposing of hundreds of millions of tires per year isn’t a task that just a few people can handle–not a chance.
An entire industry is dedicated to recycling tires, which creates jobs and stimulates the economy.
So, each time you bring a tire to a recycling facility and pay a small fee, know that you are contributing to the greater good.
9. Are There Tires Not Made of Rubber?
So, if tires can be so detrimental and difficult to get rid of, isn’t someone trying to create a tire made of an easier material to discard?
Rubber checks all the boxes for driving safety and performance.
It’s strong, resistant to temperature changes, easily accessible, and has great shock absorption.
Companies are currently working on ways to improve tires by using synthetic and composite materials, but for now, rubber is here to stay.
Many tire manufacturers, such as Goodyear and Michelin, are more focused on creating airless tires.
We may even see airless tires on the road as early as 2024, but they won’t likely become common until 2030 as long as everything goes according to plan.
Since rubber appears to have a place in the future, it’s all the more reason to put more attention on recycling tires.
Knowing how to dispose of a tire properly is important knowledge to have that’s not often talked about.
Tires are big, bulky objects that are packed with harmful toxins that are just waiting to get out into the environment and wreak havoc.
Well, with a smidge of effort, disposing of a tire the right way will prevent pollution, contribute to the economy, and create a cleaner world.
So, if you’re still not sure of the best place to discard your tires in your county, do a little research online.
And, of course, you can always call an automotive shop that will either happily take your old tires or point you in the right direction.
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