Sixty percent of the rubber consumed in the United States is used to make tires. Raw materials used to make tires include rubber (41 percent), carbon black (28 percent), steel (15 percent) and other materials (16 percent).
In 2008, 290 million new tires were shipped for use by cars and trucks. Of these, 80 percent were for passenger cars and 20 percent were for trucks. In addition, 20 percent were “original equipment” tires and 80 percent replaced used tires. Tire shipments have declined for the last two years.
In 2007, 303.2 million scrap tires were generated. Two thirds were from passenger cars and the remainder came from trucks, heavy equipment, aircraft, off-road and scrapped vehicles.
Scrap tires present unique recycling and disposal challenges because they are heavy, bulky and made from a variety of materials. More than half of recovered scrap tires are used as tire-derived fuel (TDF), which is a low-sulfur, high heating value fuel. Scrap tires can be recycled as whole or split tires, or as crumb (ground) or shredded rubber. Whole tires are used for artificial reefs and playground equipment; split tires for floor mats, belts, and dock bumpers; crumb rubber for mudguards, carpet padding, tracks and athletic surfaces, and rubberized asphalt; shredded tires for road embankment or roadfill material.
Scrap Tires MSW Facts
4.69 million tons, or 1.9% by weight.
One scrap tire per person per year.
A light duty tire weighs 22.5 pounds (lbs.)
A commercial tire weighs 120 lbs.
A steel-belted radial car tire has 2.5 lbs. of steel.
1.66 million tons, a 35.4% recovery rate.
89.3% recovery rate by weight (2007 industry figures).
New tires can contain a small amount of recycled rubber.
Retreads contain 75% recycled content.
Shredded tire chips can be used as a bulking agent in composting wastewater treatment sludge.
Burned or Landfilled:
3.03 million tons, or 1.8% of discarded MSW by weight.
15,000 btus per pound, slightly higher than coal.
Unlandfilled scrap tires can become a mosquito breeding area.
If landfilled tires fail to compress, they can rise up and resurface.
38 states ban whole tires from landfills.
12 states ban all scrap tires from landfills.
Scrap Tire Stockpiles:
128 million scrap tires remain in stockpiles.
87% reduction since 1990.
EPA landfill volume data does not include tires.
Rotate and balance tires every 6,000 miles, and keep at their recommended air pressure levels to ensure longer life.
Scrap Tire Markets:
54% of recovered tires go to tire-derived fuel (TDF).
Ground rubber (17%) and civil engineering (12%) are the next largest markets.
Each market has its own specification.
Generators usually pay a tip fee.
“Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: 2008 Facts and Figures,” U.S. EPA, Office of Solid Waste, 2009, www.epa.gov/osw
“Scrap Tire Markets in the United States,” Rubber Manufacturers Association, 2009, www.rma.org
Tire Retread Information Bureau, www.retread.org
Data is from 2008 EPA estimates, except where noted.