Scrap Tires

SIXTY PERCENT OF THE RUBBER consumed in the United States is used to make tires. Raw materials used to make tires include rubber (41%), carbon black (28%), steel (15%) and other materials (16%).

In 2004, 323 million new tires were shipped for use by cars and trucks. Of these, 255 million (79%) were for passenger cars, and 58 million (21%) were for trucks. In addition, 68 million (21%) were original equipment tires, and 254 million (79%) were replacement tires for used tires.

In 2003, 291 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. The biggest market for scrap tires is 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; and shredded tires are used for road embankment or roadfill material.

Chaz Miller is state programs director for the National Solid Wastes Management Association, Washington, D.C. E-mail the author at:

Scrap Tires Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts:


  • 4.6 million tons or 2% by weight.*

  • One scrap tire per person per year.

  • A car scrap tire weighs 20 pounds.

  • A truck scrap tire weighs 100 pounds.

  • A steel-belted radial car tire has 2.5 pounds of steel.


  • 1.77 million tons for a 38% recovery rate.*

  • 233 million tires for a 80% recovery rate (2003 industry figures).

Recycled Content:

  • New tires can have 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:

  • 2.8 million tons or 1.7% of discarded MSW by weight.*

  • 15,000 Btus per pound, slightly higher than coal.

  • Unlandfilled scrap tires can be a mosquito breeding area.

  • If landfilled tires fail to compress, they can rise up and resurface.

  • 33 states ban whole tires from landfills.

  • 12 states ban all scrap tires from landfills.

Scrap Tire Stockpiles:

  • 275 million scrap tires remain in stockpiles.

  • 75% reduction since 1990.

Source Reduction:

  • Rotate and balance tires every 6,000 miles, and keep at their recommended air pressure levels to ensure longer life.

  • 20 million retreads sold in North America in 2003.

Scrap Tire Markets:

  • 45% of recovered tires go to tire-derived fuel (TDF).

  • Civil engineering (19%) and ground rubber (10%) are the next largest markets.

Scrap Tire Market Specifications:

  • Each market has its own specification.

Scrap Tire Value:

  • Generators usually pay a tip fee.


“Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2001 Facts and Figures,” Office of Solid Waste, 2004

“US Scrap Tire Markets 2003,” Rubber Manufacturers Association, Washington, DC ,

Tire Retread Information Bureau,

*2001 EPA estimates.