Waste Tires


Waste tires, also known as End-of-Life Tires (ELT), are worn out rubber tires that are no longer safe to use on cars, trucks or other vehicles. Having out-lived their usefulness they must be disposed of. Such tires are typically dumped in landfills, dumped illegally, recycled or burned to produce fuel or energy.

Tires in Dumps

There are currently 2 to 3 billion tires piled up in legal and illegal dumps throughout the United States. The U.S. is the largest producer of ELTs, but this is a worldwide problem. Tires are filling dumps around the planet.

Tires take up a vast amount of space, and they pose an environmental threat.

Tires can trap pockets of methane gas, which can make them bubble up to the surface of landfills. This creates great environments in which mosquitoes and other disease carrying insects can breed.

Tires leak toxins such as zinc, chromium, lead, copper, cadmium and sulfur which can damage soil and contaminate local water systems.

Tires catch fire. In 2017, a three-acre tire dump caught fire in Odessa, Texas. The dump contained 100,000 tires and it took nearly a week for the EPA to put out the blaze. Smoke from such fires can contain chemicals such as carbon monoxide, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, furans and benzene as well as toxic metals. Health risks from exposure to such smoke can range from skin irritation and respiratory issues to cancer.

Recycled Tires

Fewer than 50% of waste are actually recycled. More than half of these are burned for fuel.

The tire recycling process involves shredding tires into small pieces, freezing them until they are brittle and then pulverizing them into tinier bits. These are then screened to remove large chunks and run through magnetic and vibrational separators.

The resulting components can be used in paving and roofing materials and other products.

Some used tires are re-purposed for use in construction projects or as artificial reefs. However these tires still release toxins, and they can come loose, thus causing a host of environmental problems. Loose tires can damage reefs and the ocean floor and can wash up on beaches.

Rubber mulch made from used tires has been used in gardens and playgrounds and has been made into artificial turf. Some rubber mulch has been known to leak compounds which can be toxic in sufficient quantities. The U.S. government is currently conducting further research on the safety of turf made from recycled tires.

55% of recycled tires are burned for fuel in energy production and in cement kiln operations. This process emits 23 known carcinogens into the air.