Is Tire Recycling Dangerous?

Not too long ago, mountains of old tires were to be found in virtually every town and city’s landfill, and toxic tire fires that would sometimes take months to subside were a common occurrence. Today, these tire piles are a rarity, and thankfully, so are the fires that used to go with them.

scrap-tires-pyrolysis

We have largely to thank the combined initiatives of scientists, entrepreneurs, and legislators from banishing unsightly these unsightly tire piles from the landscape. Today you’re more likely to see old tires in your yoga mat or the asphalt you drive on than in ugly piles that you can see from the distance.

However, there have been questions about the widespread use of tire chips, especially in playgrounds, as mulch, and as repurposed water containers for agriculture and livestock.

These concerns are quite understandable, as we are in direct contact with tire chips when they are used in the first two applications. When used for agriculture and livestock, there seems to be a distinct and logical risk that any toxins that are released in those applications may eventually end up in our bodies.

Recycled tire products are safe for consumers

Provided that you are not the one processing the tires yourself (more on that later), there is an extremely low toxicity risk in tire chips. A typical tire chip is made from old tires, which means that they have already off-gassed much of their volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).  New tires emit a good amount of VOC’s, which you can readily detect because of the unique new tire smell.

Many of these compounds have been linked to cancer. However, decades of research and uncontrolled use of old tires in different applications through the 20th century seem to strongly indicate that unless you are actually involved in producing or processing tires, your risks are quite low due to the low dosage of chemicals a typical consumer can expect. It’s the doses that makes a chemical toxic, and in the case of old tires where most tire chips are derived, the risk is negligible.

However, working in an environment where you can actually smell the “new tire scent” constantly can be a significant risk. By analogy, a bartender will be fine if they have a drink with one customer. But if they drink with every single customer that comes by every night, they’re in serious trouble.

Recycling large volumes of tires can be problematic

Unless you constantly work with tires, the risk is quite minimal. You can and should feel free to recycle or repurpose any tires you have around your house or yard into furniture, tire swings, planters, or pet beds. However, if you’re thinking of recycling dozens of tires a week, you should reconsider, as the particulate dust from carving up or shredding old tires can also be a risk over time if you don’t have the right equipment or safety gear.

Improper tire recycling can also heighten your exposure to dangerous chemicals in the tires, especially when they are subjected to the heat of a grinder or shredder that is not specifically meant for tire recycling. This can expose you to high levels of carcinogenic VOCs without you realizing it.

If you need to safely dispose of a high volume of tires, or tires that are difficult to recycle, such as those on tractors and OTR vehicles, be sure to contact a professional recycler like Western Tire Recyclers.

What is Tire Recycling and How To Do It

The old tires of your Subaru Forester are now worn out and no longer safe to be used on the road, says your mechanic. You’ve started shopping for new tires. But you wonder—what can you do with those old tires?

You can recycle it!

Tire or rubber recycling is the most practical and environment-friendly way of disposing of old and worn-out tires. Due to their inherent durability, large volume and environment and health risks, tires are one of the most problematic sources of solid wastes. Around the world, an estimated 2.5 million tires are thrown away yearly. With rubber recycling, tires can be given a new lease of life.

Benefits of tire recycling

Tire recycling can have numerous benefits not only for vehicle owners like you but also for the communities. For one, it can conserve landfill space. Because of their round and hollow shape, tires can take up significant space in landfills. Eliminating bulky items like tires can leave space in landfills for other things that cannot be easily recycled.

Tire recycling can also create new, beneficial products. Tire-derived fuel (TDF) is an example which is produced by subject scrap tires to high-temperature pyrolysis. This is reputed to be more energy-efficient than normal fuel. It also releases minimal emissions. Other useful products created from recycled tires are playground turf, railroad ties, and rubberized asphalt.

This process can also help in preventing the spread of diseases. Discarded old tires can provide a nesting place for rodents and mosquitoes. By recycling old tires, those pests can be eliminated. Consequently, diseases brought about by said animals can be prevented.

How to recycle tires

So, how do you recycle your old tires? One is to check with your local government about drop-off depots where you can bring your old tires for recycling. You may also bring those tires to household waste recycling centers.

These tires will then likely be packed and sent to processing plants, where they will be cut into smaller pieces by cut shredders. This is aimed at reducing the tire volume and creating a material that can be easily handled.

The end-product is a raw material that can be utilized for TDF, the most developed market for old tires in the United States. It is widely used in the country as a supplemental fuel by industries cement kilns, paper mills, and electric utilities, among others.

Tire shreds are then processed to remove the tire wire, which adds to the resilience, versatility, and strength of the tire. The wire is removed and recycled; often brought back to steel mills as these can be used in manufacturing new steel.

The remaining rubber is then screened to ensure that it is free from wires and other contamination. Afterward, the rubber is cleaned using water and other cleaning agents. Clean rubber is then packed and brought to other factories in need of rubber as raw material such as rubber shoe manufacturers.

Recycled rubber is also used in other ways such as ground rubber applications such as asphalt rubber, animal bedding, and synthetic sports field underlays. Asphalt rubber is widely used in Arizona, California, and Florida, for instance.

Other rubber by-products can be reused in various shapes and forms. For example, fiber and nylon make up nearly 15% of a tire. When extracted from old tires, these materials can be used in the manufacture of concrete, fiberglass, stucco, caret, and cleanup materials.

Rubber powder can also be derived from recycled tires. This high-performance but affordable material is used in creating sealing products, plastic, and rubber. It is a sustainable material with no adverse effects on

Other DIY ways to recycle tires

Yet recycling tire can also come in other forms. You can reuse your old, worn-out tires in different ways.  One of the oldest ways to recycle old tires is to use them as tire swings. You can paint it first before hanging the tire on a tree. If you have many trees around your yard, you can hang a couple of old tires to create an entire swing set. This is an old-fashioned way to create a playset for your kids at home.

Tires can also be reused into tire climbers. Instead of spending several hundreds of dollars in a jungle gym, you can use old tires into a tire climber. Again, paint them first with bright colors. Bolt the tires together to make the tire climber safer for kids to play with.

You can also reuse old tires into a sandbox. This is particularly recommended if you have big tires like tractor tires. Put together several tractor tires in your yard and pain them. This is a nice way to thrill the kids during the summer.

An old tire can also serve as a hose caddy. Instead of leaving your garden hose and increasing its chances of getting damaged, you can secure it with a hose caddy made of an old tire. This is simple to do—cut the tire in half and coil the garden hose inside it. You may even paint the tire so that it would match your outdoor décor.

Finally, you can reuse tires into planters. There may be some cutting involved so prepare tools such as saw and hammer. Again, painting the tire may be optional. You can make several planters depending on the number of old tires you have.

There are other creative tire recycling ideas that you may explore such as turning old tires into chairs, welcome mats, dog bed, and see-saws.

Conclusion

As you can see, old tires don’t have to end up in the landfills. Tire recycling is the best and most ecologically-sound way of disposing of old tires.

There are many ways to recycle old tires. You can bring your old tires to a household waste recycling center where these are collected and segregated before being processed into various by-products.

You can also recycle tires through DIY projects. From tire planters to tire climbers, the possibilities are endless as far as recycling and reusing old and worn out tires are concerned.