But unless Elon Musk starts building some flying cars, tires aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
This is why we decided to craft a guide on tire recycling.
Specifically, the different ways tires are being recycled right now and 16 different ways homeowners can recycle their tires right now.
From tire swings to your grandma’s backyard flower bed project and beyond, this is the ultimate guide on how to recycle tires.
Let’s get it into it!
So What Happens To Used Tires Right Now?
Before we get into specific tips, let’s cover what’s happening to old tires right now.
While some tires go straight to the landfill, many of them are exported from first world countries to third world countries to reduce labor costs.
Some companies extract the fuel out of tires, some make crumb rubber, and some just straight up pocket the importing payment from richer countries and burn the tires to get rid of them (gross).
I really liked this chart published by the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Why Are Tires So Hard To Recycle?
The addition of sulfur into the rubber compound earlier on by Charles Goodyear in the mid-1930s was another breakthrough in tire construction that gave the tire less stickiness and a more solid structure.
Because tires must be both heated and compressed during construction, the rubber yield is incredibly durable.
Have you ever tried to cut a tire with a razor knife?
Good luck, I’ll use an angle grinder.
How Are Tires Recycled?
Since tires are both a form of fuel and an ultra-durable rubber material even after being dubbed ‘scrap’, there are a few different ways this waste problem gets dealt with.
Although not an exhaustive list, here are a few ways tires are being recycled on an industrial scale.
1 – Retreading
Tires can be recycled into new tires using a re-pressing process.
This is why some tire companies offer the buyer a rebate if they send their old tires back to the same company when buying their new set.
Although retreading still takes quite a bit of energy and costs virtually the same as initial tire production, the pros outweigh the cons because the old tire gets put back into useful circulation rather than being laid to waste at the dump.
Tire companies can they lay claim to being “sustainable” in their marketing materials since they re-use old tires when making new tires.
2 – Fuel extraction
Used tires are made to produce fuel by using a reactor (pyrolisis).
Countries like India extract the actual fuel from the tires in a raw form for use in their automobiles and motorcycles.
Now, the refinement process for transportation is most definitely not efficient in more economically advanced countries because of the amount of time it takes to yield a pure version of the fuel—which is surely the reason why Europeans and other first-world countries simply burn the tires in factories rather than clogging up their catalytic converters with junk.
Factory burning/Substitute for coal
Used tires are used in burning processes in place of coal.
Countries like Germany (and even India) utilize complex particulate filters inside the factory smoke stack for pollution prevention.
Just a heads up, Santa might start leaving a used tire in stockings instead of a black carbon rock as time goes on.
3 – Reduction to powder form
The extraction of pure rubber from tires is called devulcanization.
Companies like SNRG corp in Houston Texas are able to produce 80 million pounds of recycled rubber per year from tires.
According to the Danish rubber recycling manager in the video referenced below, their process involves cooling the tires using liquid nitrogen.
The cold temperature makes the tires much easier to crush into powder using grinding/shredding techniques.
Successfully reducing the rubber into a powder gives the recycled product a much more versatile function for use.
Once in powder form, the tire rubber can be sold to virtually any potential buyer who needs a similar type of material to make anything from shoes to roads.
Making roads out of recycled rubber powder mixed with asphalt
‘Recycled roads’ made of rubber powder mixed with asphalt is a technique used by the state of Arizona, likely to improve the durability and flexibility of the roads during those scorching Arizona summers.
Here are a few more road materials often constructed from recycled tires:
- Parking blocks
- Car maintenance ramps
What About Burning Tires?
Sadly, I’ve seen plenty of cases where tires are burned in big bonfires for literally no reason other than to dispose of the mass.
Anyone who does this is a complete idiot. Come on, start a tire swing company or something!
See it for yourself, here’s what can happen to used tires:
From the tire factory to the junkyard where old tires eventually end up, tires are responsible for massive pollution.
So What Can You Do To Recycle Old Tires?
There are a million different ways to reuse a tire.
Put the rubber to good use by cutting it up with a sharp razor knife, or you can get meticulous and use an angle grinder for more precise cuts–that or just use the whole tire to make something useful.
There are many ways to cut tires, and they’ll surely cut better at colder temperatures (the rubber turns more solid).
Just ask the Danish who recycle tires by freezing them with liquid nitrogen gas beforehand.
The Earthship company is currently making an incredible impact on the world by proving the fact that tires make for great retaining walls/home walls.
By lining the bottom of the tire with cardboard and filling it with dirt, you might think this is a total joke until you see how beautiful their finished product is after covering the tires with the traditional New Mexican adobe style.
Check it out below…
Tires are the perfect way to embed your car-loving DNA into the landscape design of your property.
Fish pond/Water bowl/Bath for animals
I’ve even seen people who bury their larger tires in the earth and use a membrane to create an aquatic environment for fish/animals and plants/algae.
Tires are great for keeping the earth from moving. Use tires packed with dirt instead of concrete to hold that hill in pace.
Virtually everyone who builds boat docks uses tires on the sides of the decking to prevent boat damage when parking.
Restaurant lovers always have a heyday with automotive parts, and tires are not an exclusion from the list of furniture and decorations. Here are a few different household items you can make with use tires:
Get creative, and incorporate an old tire into your garage sink design. Old car parts always look awesome when they have a function.
Coffee tables, dog beds, light fixtures, shelves, trash, and beyond. There are endless possibilities for adding recycled tire furniture to your home.
I’ve even seen guys that make hot tubs out of large industrial tires!
Just because an old tire can’t sustain speeds of 100MPH anymore doesn’t mean it can’t be made into an ultra-durable shoe. Tire companies like Hankook recycle some of their tires into shoes.
Throwing targets/Archery targets
Alright, Joe Montana, it’s time to hang one of those old tires up in a tree by a rope to train your arm.
Thinking of taking those scrap tires to the dump? Here’s a better idea. Grab a beer, and frame your old tires into a cornhole set using plywood and fabric.
Who’s the king of the tetherball court? We’ll find out once you fill that tire with old cement and stick a metal fence post in the middle for the perfect backyard tetherball setup.
Race track bumpers
You might be surprised at how many rednecks build race tracks in their backyards, and stacking up old tires is a solid way to keep everyone on the right track.
Sir, yes sir! It’s time to run/jump through tires in preparation for top-tier fitness level.
Building a tire swing is the most classic thing you could ever do with your used tire. You could even cut the tires into strips and make a more custom-built tire swing setup.
Where To Recycle Old Tires?
Here are some locations where you could potentially recycle your tires, depending on where you live:
Before taking your old tires to the landfill, do some research on how much it costs to recycle them, and how they are treated once you leave them there.
I don’t recommend taking tires to landfills because it’s unlikely they’ll be properly recycled but it is possible depending on where you live.
Tire shops/Bike shops
Tire shops are sometimes a convenient place to get rid of old tires, but again, you should always ask what happens to the tires after you drop them off.
Can Tires Be Made From Recycled Materials?
Aside from retreading tires, entirely new tire technologies are being fine-tuned to utilize less toxic materials in the construction process.
For a quick history lesson, tire rubber was originally harvested from the rubber tree native to the Amazon region.
More recently, engineers produced synthetic rubber from petrochemicals/petroleum using these ingredients to form isoprene and butadiene.
Currently, both Chinese and American engineers are working on creating these same isoprienes by using photosynthesis and fermentation processes instead of crude oil extraction–interesting, eh?
The future is bright.
What Will Make Consumers Recycle More Tires?
The answer is more action from the big companies, and better consumer education. For example:
Incentives/Rebates From Tire Companies
The tire companies themselves need to take more responsibility for the waste they’re creating. Local governments should also be stepping up and providing incentives for tires to be disposed of properly (although most don’t).
A good move is to buy the same brand tires that you did before, and send the old ones back for a small ‘core’ refund (when possible).
Tire Recycling Education
Many boneheads have no idea what to do with their tires once they pull them off their vehicle, and the majority of humans assume it’s just fine to throw them in the garbage can without giving it much thought.
That’s why I’m here to give you some ideas on how to make the most of your old tires and also educate you on reasons why not to contribute to used tire accumulations by the millions.
My Final Thoughts
I encourage you to have fun with your used tires and recycle them into something cool. The possibilities are endless on what you can do with this high-quality rubber. It’s not waste material.