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What are Some Uses for Recycled Tires?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many of us have seen news footage of a major fire involving stacks of discarded tires. These fires can rage on for days, weeks or even months if the conditions are right, leaving ground and air pollution in their wake. These massive fields of discarded tires may soon become a relic of a wasteful past if new uses for recycled tires become more popular. Recycled tires contain enough fuel to power furnaces, and potentially enough retrievable oil to ease consumer demand. There are a number of other uses for old tires, from clothing to child safety to environmental protection.

One of the most common uses for recycled tires is as an alternative fuel source for certain industries. Concrete manufacturers, for example, must use kilns to dry their products before shipping. These massive kilns are large enough to accommodate whole tires in their furnaces.

Other industries, such as steel and glass production, use shredded tires to augment their usual coal or natural gas fuel sources. The tires must be shredded in order to fit through the feeder grates of the furnaces. One drawback is the presence of steel belts in many tires, which can build up over time and block the feeder chutes.

In order to meet strict environmental guidelines, many landfills must provide a safe covering over each day's deliveries. Instead of using a layer of fill dirt, some landfill operations are now using a layer of shredded recycled tires as a daily cover. Instead of piling whole discarded tires in a hazardous tire pile, landfill operators can receive tire shreds from a local recycling center or invest in their own tire shredding machinery.

Old tires are also used as a cushioning material in playgrounds and other public areas popular with children. Sometimes, the shredded tires are spread over the area like a mulch, which can cushion the fall of a child or reduce the impact of playground equipment. Recently, recycled rubber from old tires has been combined with other binders and foam to produce a solid safety mat for playgrounds and schoolyards.

Even certain clothing manufacturers have discovered the benefits of using recycled tires. Material made from them is now used to form the rubber sole of some athletic shoes and work boots. Discarded tires may one day be turned into other rubber-based clothing and accessories, such as raincoats, boots, umbrellas and hats.

One recent use of recycled tires may become a trend in larger cities. Traditional concrete sidewalks can now be replaced with similar-sized panels constructed from recycled tires and other materials. Proponents of these new sidewalk panels claim they are more resistant to the damage caused by tree roots, and they provide more stability for pedestrians. While the current cost per panel is higher than traditional concrete forms, the new rubberized panels should require far less maintenance throughout their lifespan.

Since recycled tires contain oil and carbon black, two very useful substances, scientists are still seeking ways to retrieve these materials from discarded tires. If these researchers are successful in their quest, the huge piles of scrap tires we see today will ultimately become nothing more than a memory. They may provide enough reclaimed oil to make them worth salvaging, instead of merely discarding.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to About Mechanics, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon52630 — On Nov 16, 2009

I have seen tiles made of recycled tires used in airports and other high traffic areas. We purchased them for the entrances to our chain of yoga studios all over the USA.

By pollick — On Oct 06, 2009

I believe your concerns about the potential overuse of recycled tires are valid, anon47536. Most of the applications I read about while researching the topic, however, are generally in outdoor or well-ventilated areas. Personally, I think a greater safety concern in an outdoor playground setting would be exposure to steel belting materials. I once worked in a chemical factory which supplied an essential compound for tire production. I wouldn't want that tar-like material leaching into the ground myself. I would like to see future tire recyclers make an effort to sort scrap tires like they do plastics today. If the tire material is too hazardous to human health, don't recycle it.

By anon47536 — On Oct 05, 2009

Recycling tires may seem like a good idea, but have you ever walked into a tire store and noticed how awful the place smelled? I am very concerned about how the green movement is forgetting that not everything is meant to be recycled even if it's a waste to dump it. Now recycled tires are showing up in wallets and purses. Tires are not just vulcanized rubber, they are made of synthetic rubber drenched in all kinds of additives improve performance and UV resistance as well as countless chemicals that can produce VOCs.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to About Mechanics, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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