Register News | Site Map | Contest  
Skip Navigation Links
Print this page
Environmental News

EARTH TALK From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk : Can old tires be recycled? If so, where, and what is the recycled material used for?
-- George, Rockville, MD

Old tires can indeed be recycled, and thanks to concerted efforts by state and provincial governments from coast-to-coast, as many as 80 percent of them are these days across North America. While some of these old tires are remanufactured into new tires, others are used in a wide variety of applications including railroad ties, rubber-modified asphalt, athletic surfaces, insulation, plastic/rubber blends used in a variety of products, even fuel.

The world’s first tires were made entirely out of natural rubber, but the Southeast Asian forests where the plants grew could only produce so much. By World War II most tires were composed primarily of synthetic rubber made from petroleum products. Up until the 1960s, tires were routinely recycled and broken down for use in making new tires. But when imported oil got cheaper, demand for recycled synthetic rubber fell, and caches of old tires with nowhere to go--most landfills won’t accept them--began to sully landscapes across North America. These old tire stockpiles became havens for pests and mosquitoes, and would even occasionally burst into flames and belch noxious chemicals into the air.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, state and provincial governments in the U.S. and Canada led the charge in mandating and funding tire recycling efforts. In doing so they helped spur the markets for reprocessed synthetic rubber that exist today. Now thousands of companies across North America specialize in turning recycled synthetic rubbers into useful new products.

American consumers looking to offload old tires should take a gander at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) “Management of Scrap Tires” website to find tire recycling centers near them. Canadians can turn to the website of the Canadian Association of Tire Recycling Agencies (CATRA) to find out where to take used tires in any province, including even the remote Yukon Territory.

The EPA also offers free Business Planning Guides for those who might be looking to start a tire recycling or re-manufacturing business. The website Scrap Tire News also provides a wealth of knowledge on different ways to get started.

Despite this encouraging progress, North America still faces a backlog of hundreds of millions of old tires, quickly piling up outside filling stations and in backyards near you. The EPA estimates that 290 million scrap tires are generated annually, representing two percent of all solid waste, and that some 265 million are sitting in stockpiles right now. At the very least, we could all take the advice of Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel’s Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills and turn our old tires into “sandals with a 50,000 mile warranty!”

Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine , P.O. Box 5098 , Westport , CT 06881 ;
submit it at:
or e-mail:
Read past columns at:

What exactly constitutes “Eco-Travel” or “Eco-Tourism”?
What is “sprawl” and how do we keep it in check for the sake of the environment?
The emerging science of "Conservation Medicine"
Nuclear power seems like such a clean and cost-effective alternative to burning fossil fuels.
What are the implications for Montana’s Glacier National Park if the glaciers there keep melting?
I’ve heard that aluminum is toxic.
How are coral reefs faring around the world?
How worried should I be about skin cancer now that summer is approaching and I'll be spending time in the sun?
Is there chemicals in breast milk?
is it bad for the environment to release balloons into the air?
Other than calculators, what are some other accessories and gadgets that are now available solar-powered?
Where can I find green-friendly office products and back-to-school supplies?
What makes a city a “mega-city” and what are the environmental implications?
Laurie Garrett: Are We Prepared for Avian Flu?
U.S. refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol climate agreement
I’ve heard that a number of fish commonly available in seafood restaurants are now threatened with extinction. Is this true?
Are there organic highlights and dyes I can use in my hair that contain less ammonia and peroxide than traditional brands
What is the status of bicycle use in the United States, compared to other parts of the world like, say, China or Europe?
Can asphalt roof shingles be recycled?
Are any book or magazine publishers using recycled paper these days?
Are there ways to recycle old athletic shoes?
Eco carpets?
Do computers and electronic devices contain arsenic and other toxins?
Is the chlorine bleach ok or are there safe alternatives?
converting crops like corn into ethanol actually uses more energy than is produced?
Fuel cell vehicles & hydrogen
Healthy pet foods?
How does the "Survivor TV" series affect things?
God, religon & the environment?
US tax credits for Hybrid cars
Does recycling really save energy?
Energy star ratings
What are “El Niño” and “La Niña”
Ticks and how to control them
How General Motors help to kill public transport
Privacy | Media Kit | Internet Marketing
@ 2006, Yelverton Brook, All Right Reserved.