Vehicle repair operations generally generate light vehicle tires and, on occasion, large tires from heavy equipment and trucks.

Disposing of tires is becoming increasingly difficult as some states enact bans on landfilling tires. Landfilled tires are also possible health hazards as they are breeding grounds for mosquitos, which may carry diseases. If tires are stacked in “tire farms”, a fire can burn for weeks and create air pollution (smoke) that can be seen and smelled for miles.

Most of the light vehicle tires are taken back by vendors for retreading although in some cases they are landfilled off-site. Smaller tires can also be used for “cable trees” and aerial survey markers.

Several new uses for old tires are currently being evaluated. Shredded tires are being used in construction projects to replace conventional fill materials in some instances. Examples include, road bed construction, building constructions, and landscaping. Shredded tires have also been incorporated into asphalt, almost doubling the durability and lifetime of the road surface. However, the cost of this process is about twice as high as ordinary asphalt.

Shredded tires are also being used as a fuel for power plants and cement kilns. Studies by several power plants have shown that using shredded tires mixed with coal has actually decreased air emissions for lead, particulates, and nitrogen oxides. The biggest drawback to this technology is that the cost of a machine to shred the tires to a 1″ X 1″ size is approximately $50,000, making these options costly for a company simply looking to dispose of their old tires. A company whose business is shredding tires must have not only a ready supply of used tires, but also a ready customers for his product. Some states are finding that it is more cost effective for them to buy their own shredding machines than it is to buy the product from an independent company.

Using tires with extended mileage warranties is another means of reducing waste through using fewer tires. One study of county maintenance facilities showed that the down time and costs necessary to change tires more than offset the cost of the increased mileage tires. On the economic downside, businesses that sell tires or make tires have an economic stake in selling more tires. They must weigh the economic versus pollution prevention alternatives.

Source: US EPA, Region 8

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Last Update – July 2000