Each year over 240 million tires are scrapped. Current trends indicate that about 6 percent of these tires are being recycled as products and 11 percent used as fuel. About 5 percent are exported. The rest are being landfilled, stockpiled, or dumped illegally.

The primary concern is to reduce the number of tires in uncontrolled stockpiles or illegal dumps. These tires are often sites of mosquito infestation, with the potential for spreading dangerous mosquito-borne diseases. Large tire dumps can also lead to fires with major releases of air pollution and hazardous organic chemicals into surface and groundwater.

Recycling rubber from tires for use in asphalt pavements is a promising technology. Asphalt pavements with rubber added are claimed to have twice the lifetime of ordinary asphalt, but they can cost twice as much. Pavements with crumb rubber additives consume over one million tires per year now, and both asphalt-rubber and rubber modified asphalt concrete have considerable potential for expansion. If Federal, state, and local governments promote much broader demonstration and use of this technology, perhaps the technical issues will be resolved and usage will expand.

Using whole tires as fuel for reciprocating grate power plants appears to be economically feasible in some situations and can meet environmental permitting requirements. One such plant in Modesto, California, is currently consuming 4.9 million tires per year. Another power plant is under construction in Connecticut and is expected to consume an additional 10 million tires per year. A second 10 million tire per year plant is being considered for an area near Las Vegas, Nevada. The main barriers to such plants appear to be local resistance to incineration projects and lengthy permitting procedures.

The replacement of coal by tire-derived-fuel appears economically feasible for cement kilns. Seven such kilns are currently operating in the U.S., consuming the equivalent of about 6 million tires per year between them. There is potential for this use to expand further, particularly for those cement kilns whose feed systems are compatible with the use of TDF.

Tire-derived fuel is economically feasible for use in hog fuel boilers in the pulp and paper industry. It is estimated that the equivalent of 12 million tires is consumed annually in this way in the U.S. There is potential for this use to expand further.

Other technologies and options are promising on a smaller scale, but also are important to the overall solution. Uses of crumb rubber for such diverse products as athletic surfaces, tracks, and garbage cans show potential for growth. Also, increased retreading could utilize about 20 million additional passenger and light truck tires each year, thus delaying their disposal. Current trends, however, indicate fewer of these tires are retreaded each year.

Other uses of tires can be important in certain geographic areas. Each year, Cape May County, New Jersey uses about 100,000 tires, which is 100 percent of its scrap tires, for artificial reefs. The State of Minnesota has used about a million of its scrap tires since 1986 for roads in swampy areas.

The markets-for most other products made from tires have potential, but appear to be relatively small. These include rubber railroad crossings, artificial reefs, playground equipment, erosion control, highway crash barriers, playground gravel substitute, sludge composting, rubber parts for agricultural and fishing equipment, and rubber mats. Each of these products has the potential for using some portion of our waste tire stockpile. Collectively, they are all important parts of the solution to the tire problem.

Trash To Cash

Trash To Cash

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