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A Tire Story

2009 March 26

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Rubber protects my bones and ligaments while I jog in my neighborhood park. Yet if not properly recycled, it can be more harm than good. In Puerto Rico 4.7 million scrap tires are disposed of every year and nearly 300 million in the United States. While there is a market for their proper recycling and productive use, such as the ground rubber surface I love to run on, almost one quarter of scrap tires end up in landfills and illegal dumps every year.

While tire regulations vary from state to state, and they are not treated generally a hazardous waste, they are threats to human health and the environment when not properly disposed of. Rodents and mosquitoes, such as aedes aegypti, may live and breed in them if they collect water. Fires, which are hard to extinguish, can release hazardous gases, heavy metals and oils that can contaminate not only the air but also the soil.

Tires can be used in environmentally safe applications such as ground rubber, like the one used in rubber-modified asphalt and playground applications, and rubber mulch. Some 56 million tires are recycled in the US for civil engineering projects and some 16.5 million are re-treaded.

image of tire floating in water taken from the side of a shipIn spite of all these good uses and outreach efforts being performed by local and federal environmental agencies and municipal anti-tire dumping laws, many scrap tires end up in our rivers and beaches harming habitats and ecosystems. Furthermore, during the last OSV Bold trip to Puerto Rico we found some tires floating in the ocean, miles away from the Atlantic coast.

In order to help state and local governments reduce the economic burdens and environmental risks associated with scrap tire piles, EPA Region 5 created the Scrap Tire Cleanup Guidebook. This guidebook provides the experience of dozens of professionals to assist government officials in reducing scrap tire dumping and creating prevention programs.

As an individual citizen there are many things that can be done to prevent tires from ending up in the wrong place and becoming a nuisance. If you have unused tires at home, you may be able to return surplus tires to either a tire retailer or a local recycling facility that accepts them. Also buy durable tires and take proper care of them by checking air inflation, driving in a manner that does not put unnecessary demand on tires, rotating them, balancing the wheels, and maintaining proper wheel alignment. And last but not least, support the recycled product market.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 26, 2009

    Great blog. Valuable information. Thanks.

  2. Used Car Dealers permalink
    March 27, 2009

    If the processes for recycling is done proprly, the rubber wasting and the harmful environment created due to the useless disposal of tire, will be reduced. This will again helps in enhancing the environmental friendly nature.. Tires enable better vehicle performance by providing traction, braking, steering, and load support. Tires form a flexible cushion between the vehicle and the road, which smooths out shock and makes for a comfortable ride. Recycle it properly, will surely give a long life to the vehicle.

  3. Nicole permalink
    March 31, 2009

    Rubber protects my bones and ligaments while I jog in my neighborhood park. I feel uncomfortable about this introduction. It seems akwardly placed and off putting. Is there a certain shoe company who claims stakes in america’s rubber policies? More importantly, is there a plastic pollution problem that future generations will be forced to clean up if we dont act now against free-market”ing” and brainwashing.

  4. Nicole permalink
    March 31, 2009

    Please excuse my own akward language and criticism. That’s another subject for another time, but we are eager to change things from the roots of the problems and maybe tire waste could be prevented if there were more regulations on production quality. Then, natural competition would rise from a quality based and more or less needed product that is ecologically non-variable. Finally creating buisness that was more concerned with client service than profit. Or what about tire companies which risk and fear slowed buisness taking up recycling services?

  5. Brenda-EPA permalink
    April 6, 2009

    Nicole: I was not referring to my shoes but to the surface I run in my park which is made from recycled tires.

  6. Exotic sports cars permalink
    April 24, 2009

    The Washington County Solid Waste Department’s Recycling Office will offer a scrap tire drop-off day for county residents, according to a county press release.

    ==>> David Matt

  7. Jad Smith permalink
    April 29, 2010

    Nice information,
    Rubber mulch is a type of mulch that is made from 100% recycled rubber. so it is good to use.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Anonymous permalink
    December 8, 2010

    We are looking into starting a plant in the states and are trying to gather more information about equipment. We found the Environmental Rubber plant of Puerto Rico and would like to obtain contact information in order to speak with them about the equipment they procured. If anyone has their contact information please email.

  9. sam brewer permalink
    November 2, 2011

    Please look up youtube.com and type in: scrap tiires in UAE You’ll see a July, 2011 video glimpse of monumental concern. I now live here, and realize a lot more about the seriousness of this issue. Rotten(rotting) tires are infested with rats/feces, mosquitoes;eggs- They become a PERMANENT breeding spot for life-threatening disease and illness. I want to help gather up these eye sores (30 million in Puerto Rico) and re-use the WHOLE material, converting it to energy for big power plants. There are so many good uses that would create steady jobs and be an asset instead of an ever growing liability concern.
    Please call me, Sam Brewer Help each other?

  10. Mohammed Palacois permalink
    July 11, 2013

    Used tires can be reused before scrapping off. I think that many tires that get thrown out could have some life left in them. Obviously they will not be suitable for all circumstances. Big fires can start from old tire piles.

  11. asdas permalink
    August 17, 2013

    stments that take places in everyday life of individuals and it has many uses for the storage of items like furniture as well.

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