Used tires are among the largest and most problematic sources of waste today, due to the large volume produced and their durability. Stockpiles of whole tires are a large health and safety risk. Tire fires are very hard extinguish and burn for decades. Also, the smoke includes toxic chemicals. The tires are also the perfect place to provide shelter for vermin and a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may carry diseases.
There are three types of tires; car tires, truck tires and off-the-road (OTR) tires. The most common is car tires who consists of approx. 45-50 % rubber, 10-15% steel and 3-5 % textile. In a tires the rubber ensure optimal grip, a long lifespan, low fuel efficiency and best comfort including noise reduction, while the steel and textile give the tensile strength necessary to contain the inflation pressure.
The same characteristics which make waste tires a waste problem also make them one of the most re-used waste materials. Rubber is a very dependable material strong, flexible, elastic, durable and waterproof. The most important use of rubber is in tires – almost half of all the world's rubber ends up as tires! Other uses are e.g. erasers, balloons protective gloves, waterproof clothes and paints.
Waste tires – reuse or recycling
There are a few ways in which tires can be reused or recycled. There are large differences in laws and regulations worldwide with the aim to encourage or discourage different methods.
One way of reusing tires is retreading tires, thereby extending the tire’s lifecycle. Using waste tires is as landfill is still a popular way of disposing waste tires. Since tires are not biodegradable, governments globally instead encourage recycling in different ways. One way is to de-bead the tire (i.e. removing the steel bead), cutting it and stamping it into products like shims or belts.
By downsizing the tires many recycling opportunities open.