First, I must fess up: I own a car (which I drive about once a week). Secondly, I’ll confess that I scarcely know how to drive it (at least, safely, or with any sense of ease). Until two years ago, when I moved from a big city to the backwater boonies and bought my first set of (gently used, fuel-efficient) wheels, I’d never really driven anywhere, excepting on a small handful of haphazard road trips. In the city, I hadn’t ever needed to drive. So, last week, when I rolled up to my destination (work) with a totally flat tire, I was sure it was my hypocrisy biting me in the ass; a sign that it was time to stop with my timorous, half-hacked carectomy and challenge myself with the real deal. (In my defense, I’d taken the car that morning because I’d gotten an irreparable flat on my bike the day before. Still, the guilt burned.)
Without any tutorial or illustrated manual, I managed to bust the bolts from the wheel with the sock wrench and was able to screw on the spare. At the tire shop the next day, the dude behind the desk told me how much it would cost (I’m convinced that cars, between the cost of unforeseen repairs and gas prices, keep people in debt), and casually inquired if I wanted to keep my tires.
“What would I do with them?” I asked. “Besides make a tire swing?” A tire swing might be fun, I thought, or a pair of shoes, a makeshift flower bed, or the beginnings of my own earthship? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship But, seriously, I wondered where tires—millions of them—go when they die. What happens to all of that indestructible burnt rubber?
My research confirmed my suspicions: most tires end up in dumps, landfills, or as fuel that generates harsh emissions (and even greater waste). The majority (42%), in fact, are used as fuel for cement kilns, pulp and paper plants, and power plants. The remaining scrap tires are left to languish in dumps (12%) and landfills (10%), or are used as crumb rubber (i.e. in asphalt, for paving, 12%). Fourteen percent of used tires are recycled for civil works projects (i.e. as roadbeds and drainage liners), while five percent are exported (for what purpose, I don’t know). A flimsy five percent are used to make doormats and sandals (3%), and for miscellaneous projects, like planters, art, and tire swings (2%).
Here are the hard numbers from TireStamp:
“There’s no single processing or disposal solution for scrap tires. About 115 million tires become fuel in places such as cement kilns, pulp and paper mills and power plants. Another 28 million tires go to landfills. Some 40 million go to what Blumenthal calls civil engineering applications, including roadbeds and drainage liners.
The crumb, or ground, rubber market uses 33 million tires per year, and 15 million are exported. Another 8 million are stamped into other products such as doormats, and 7 million go to agriculture and miscellaneous uses such as tire swings, planters and modern art, Blumenthal said. With 75 percent of used tires finding other markets and 10 percent finding landfills, that leaves 15 percent in dumps, stockpiles or processors´ inventories.”
Nova Scotia,CA banned the burning and landfilling of scrap tires in 1996 and has seen a strong effort to recycle scrap tires ever since.
If you’re looking to geek out by recycling your retired tires in an eco-friendly way, here’s a list of possibilities:
Click here for more information from the Scrap Tire Management Council.
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