Modern Tactics in Recycling Tires

What do we do with all the waste?

TIRE GUYHave you ever wondered about this?

Stockpiling of tires is not an environmentally friendly alternative and a chemical process unique to tires often draws them to the surface if they are buried. Open burning of tires is an environmental nightmare. Recycling tires is a logical alternative and a number of tactics have been employed in attempting to recycle tires, reducing pollution and damage to the environment.

Whole Tires

Some tires can be exported to developing countries for further use. Retreading a choice which may be increasing (see article about Military tires), but is considered by some consumers as being less safe than installing new tires.

Cutting Tires

Recycling tires by making other, more simple, things from them is very efficient. Discarded tires can be cut into pieces to make shoe soles and gaskets.

Chipped or shredded Tires

Tire shredders produce strips that can be buried in landfill. Tire shreds take less landfill space than whole tires and do not resurface.

Tire chips can be used as a base for roads and then overlaid with gravel and asphalt.

Tire Crumb

Recycling tires into rubber crumb is proving popular. Tire crumb is produced either mechanically or through cryogenic freezing. Rubber crumb is used for chemical devulcanization, asphalt for highway paving, or used in many of the other products containing recycled rubber.


The rubber industry has been investing in research of devulcanization for years. The main difficulty has been compromising the desirable properties during the process and, as a consequence, rendering the byproduct not suitable for use under modern standards.

During devulcanization old rubber is returned to its raw state and then used to produce mats, tubs and other products. The material has slightly different properties from virgin rubber and does not meet standards for the manufacture of tires or hoses

Reclamation (Pyrolysis)

Pyrolysis is a heating process used for chemical decomposition. Carbon black is the key product of this process- recycled carbon black is acceptable for use in industrial hoses, mats, roofing materials and moldings. The tire industry uses carbon black, but recycled carbon black is not suitable for the manufacture of new tires.

Energy Recovery

The production of energy from waste is an economically sound use for waste tires. Public perception of incineration, however, makes it difficult to promote as a waste management option. When tires burn in the open, the temperature isn’t high enough and toxic compounds are released to the air and soil. However, combustion to inorganic gases and ash can be achieved through high-temperature incineration, as is practiced in cement kilns and coal-fired thermal-electric generating stations.

Some applications for recycled rubber include

  • Sport Surfaces like that used in kindergarten playgrounds and recreation areas, athletic tracks, as well as tennis and basketball courts.
  • Automotive uses like new car bumpers, car body underseal and rust proofing materials.
  • Construction uses in hospitals, industrial flooring and floor tiles
  • Geotechnical Applications like rubberized asphalt for roads and driveways, sub-bases for horseracing tracks, as well as general road building and repair.
  • Adhesives and Sealants like non-slip paint.
  • Rubber and Plastic Products like pipe insulation and lining, baseboards and kick plates, flowerpots and garbage cans.

The recycled rubber market is faces a major hurdle in that recycled rubber products are only equal to, or lower in quality, than products that are made from virgin rubber. Also, they are still tend to be more expensive.

Using the recycled products can also cause the use of more fuel to produce them than the products they are replacing, possibly canceling any environmental savings.

However, research is continuing into making these processes more efficient, and I'm willing to bet we'll be seeing more as time goes on.


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