Garbage: Scrap Tires

Sixty percent of the rubber consumed in the United States is used to make tires. More than 270 million tires were sold nationwide in 1996. In the same year, 266 million scrap tires were generated.

Passenger cars supply 84 percent of scrap tires, and trucks supply 15 percent. The remaining 1 percent comes from heavy equipment, aircraft and off-road vehicles.

In 1996, less than 800 million scrap tires were in stockpiles. This represents a 20 percent reduction in the number stockpiled since 1993.

Because they are made from rubber, steel and other materials, as well as because of their weight and bulk, scrap tires present unique recycling and disposal challenges.

Scrap tires can be burned as tire-derived fuel. They also can be recycled as whole or split tires, or as crumb (ground) or shredded rubber. Whole tire uses include artificial reefs and playground equipment. Split tire uses include floor mats, belts and dock bumpers. Crumb rubber uses include rubber and plastic products, such as mudguards, carpet padding, tracks and athletic surfaces, and rubberized asphalt. Shredded uses include road embankment or roadfill material.