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March 17, 2008

Tire piles not so high anymore

Posted: 10:49 AM ET

When you think about discarded tires, you probably think of huge mounds of unwanted rubber, serving as mosquito motels and home to never-ending tire fires.

Source: Getty Images

Well, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, that's not as much of a problem as it used to be.

As I was gathering information for our Powdered Tires story, I spoke with Mike Blumenthal, senior technical director for the Rubber Manufacturers Association. He told me that there's been a metamorphosis in tire re-use over the past 17 years, and that the industry is still evolving at a rapid pace. He said in 1990 more than ONE BILLION tires lay neglected in tire dumps, but today that number is down to fewer than 188 million. That's remarkable, especially considering that we manufacture more tires now than in 1990.

Entrepreneurs are striving to find all sorts of uses for discarded tires. Blumenthal said the most popular market is for fuel. Tires burn like coal, except cleaner and hotter. But the fastest-growing use is for making products like belts and hoses and for mulch and cover for playgrounds and sports fields. I recently tested out a playground covered with rubber chips. Wish they'd had that when I was a kid – would have saved me a lot of bumps and bruises.

If you want to do your part in reducing the number of tires being discarded, The Rubber Manufacturers Association recommends the following:

  1. Purchase longer-tread life tires
  2. Rotate tires every 5,000-8,000 miles
  3. Once a month or before every long trip, check to make sure tires are inflated to recommended air pressure levels
  4. Balance tires when rotating them

The RMA has a lot of other useful and interesting facts at

Got to go now – time to rotate my tires.

Diane Hawkins-Cox

Senior Producer, CNN Science and Technology Unit

Filed under: environment • recycling • Tires

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Carl   March 17th, 2008 11:24 am ET

The ground up rubber might also be added to asphalt mixtures as well – given the skyrocketing cost of oil (which is where the asphalt comes from), that might help keep paving costs down as well as reuse the old tires.

Anyone come up with a use for the steel cords?

Glenn Riedel   March 17th, 2008 12:32 pm ET

Good story. It let us know good things are happening to a once troublesome issue. It was encouraging and informative. I did not know tires were used for fuel. This is what Americans want to hear – that there are good things happening and not the standard gloom and doom the media is always giving us. Thanks for giving us a break.

Sharry   March 17th, 2008 1:08 pm ET

Check out this link too for reusing tires:

Kay   March 17th, 2008 1:36 pm ET

From what I understand, some states are using recycled tire material in their roads with fabulous results. If this is the case, California should try it. We have some of the worst roads in Merced, CA. Our cars and travel trailer bounce around like popcorn in hot oil.

PJ   March 17th, 2008 1:49 pm ET

I know this doesn't fit you agenda. But is it possible for you to broadcast some facts about global warming, since it is a myth?

Bart   March 17th, 2008 3:27 pm ET

The tires in my town may be getting smaller, but the town is not. Last year, two or three more people bought cars that already had a house and now they have more tires than we did when they lived in a smaller house. This house/tire association is really a messy thing if tires are recycled and cars and houses are bought in big neighborhoods.

Peter   March 17th, 2008 5:02 pm ET

Steel can be recycled into any other steel item. The difficulty might be in getting it out of the tire, but once that's done it can be melted down and turned into anything.

jose   March 17th, 2008 5:23 pm ET

steel is melted down I would imagine.

EE   March 17th, 2008 10:34 pm ET

Someone in my state of ND has found an ingenious way to use old tires – please check out this website:

The problem is, the state is in the process of making him remove ALL the tires and he's at risk of losing everything he's ever worked for. The pictures don't do justice to seeing the real thing – it is unbelievable.

Michael   March 18th, 2008 1:03 am ET

Tires are ground into either pellets or powder and placed into asphalt pavement to improve the friction of road surfaces in many states. This makes the road surfaces safer. Unfortunately, ground tires do not save any oil since they don't displace the liquid "tar" that holds the road together. Thankfully, all of the road surface is recyclable. Recycling as much of the pavement as possible would save and ENORMOUS amount of oil annually.

Robert Lee   March 18th, 2008 1:13 am ET

If they would now start instlling more solar hot water heaters like Carter did at the White House thirty years ago, before that loser Reagan took it down out of spite, we would be way ahead of where we are now with the green movement.

BD   March 18th, 2008 9:22 am ET

188 million neglected tires is most likely a gross understatement. I work in the mosquito industry, and there are at least that many in my state alone. Many piles have 1-2 million abandoned tires.

Patrick   March 18th, 2008 11:03 pm ET

Hey PJ.... wow one year that really makes a trend there PJ... you republicans are so good an economic and weather estimation... the war will only cost 50 billion right?

Did you neglect to mention that some of the hottest winters have occurred in the past few years as well? No of course you didn't... republicans have a problem with statistics and scientifical thingies... it makes em' all confused.

Peter   March 25th, 2008 12:31 am ET

There is an incredible and unique technology that uses tires to create electricity with emissions that will exceed California's 2016 emission requirements. It can produce 20 megawatts of electricity, produce carbon black that it used in the manufacuring of new tires, reuse the steel and produce an aggregate that is used in roads. Nothing goes to waste. Check it out!

Mr. Spock   March 28th, 2008 4:54 am ET

Anyone remember the great tire fire of Hamilton, Ontario, several years ago? Tire fires are very hard to put out, and far more dangerous than mosquito dens. Tire recycling truly is the way to go, and we need to expand this technology now so we don't have millions of tons of tires waiting to go up in smoke and pollute our environment. Asphalt use and steel recycling sre the best uses for tires as well as energy production. I agree with you, Peter.

jaymonds   June 27th, 2008 7:50 am ET

nice to see discussion on recycling.. the greater the awareness the more we can keep the environment healthy. I have seen many articles on computers, mobile phone recycling and on many other gadgets but never on tire.

great thread.

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