What happens to scrap tires?

Environmentally Challenged: By Brian Troutman

After a tire blew on my car over the weekend, I became curious as to what happens to old tires.

Pretty obvious they pose an environmental threat.

Tires are built to handle extreme weather conditions, so they do not biodegrade. Chemicals used to manufacture tires and found in the composition of a tire are extremely flammable. A scrap tire on the ground can also hold water, creating the perfect habitat for mosquitoes and other pests that can offer carry disease.

According to the EPA, as of 2003, more than 500 million scrap tire stockpiles were in existence.

The good news? The EPA now reports that markets exist to recycle 80 percent of scrap tires.

The EPA says that most scrap tires are now being reused as fuel. When cut to fit inside combustion units, tires are most often used to fuel cement kilns.

The other two most popular uses for old tires are civil engineering projects and in-ground products such as rubber-modified asphalt.

Millions of tires are also retreaded and exported to other countries. Countries like Mexico report that nearly 1/4 of all tires sold were used tires from the U.S.

So what happened to my tire? Given that it was a blow out and not a candidate for retreading, it will probably be used as fuel to make cement, become rubber play space on a playground or ironically, become part of the same road that played a role in its destruction.