Of the 6.5 million Firestone tires recalled last September, many will enjoy second lives.
According to John Serumgard, vice president of the Scrap Tire Management Council (STMC), a division of the Rubber Manufacturers Association, 69.2 percent of the 275 million tires (4.1 million tons) scrapped every year are recycled. The STMC is also investigating ways to clean up existing stockpiles of tires and find uses for new cast-offs until all tires are recycled. "There's still room for expansion of markets," Serumgard says, although legal landfilling is still allowed, and "a relatively small but highly visible amount end up in the ditch."
Cast-off tires are reused in two basic ways: ground and added to other products, or burned as tire-derived fuels (TDFs). According to the STMC's Web site, TDFs are burned "in a completely environmentally sound manner" and contribute to lower operating costs for the industries that use them. Other major uses include:
Roadways: Most ground tire rubber is used in modified asphalt that helps roads resist deterioration.
Bound-rubber products: Patio floor materials and railroad crossing blocks often include rubber molded into a set shape and held together by adhesive (epoxy or urethane).
Athletic and recreational purposes: Running tracks and stadium and playground surfaces incorporate this cushy and resilient substance.
Civil engineering: Ground rubber is commonly used for septic system drainfields and as backfill for walls and bridge abutments.