are few man-made things more durable than a tire.
A resilient mixture of fabric, steel,
carbon black and several different types of natural and synthetic rubber,
tires carry us to work, school or play across our country – safely.
However, all of the characteristics
that make tires invaluable create a special challenge. What do you do when
tires wear out?
The fact is, making a tire is like
baking a cake – it’s a one way process. The sulfur and carbon in rubber,
like flour and sugar in a cake, are bonded together and inseparable, which
makes tire recycling impossible.
However, scrap tires can be reused
or converted to energy. Alternative markets and solutions do exist, and
dramatic progress is being achieved. The infrastructure to pick up and
deliver tires to those markets also will continue to expand to meet customer
As a producer and marketer of a wide
variety of tires, Goodyear is working toward long-term solutions to the
scrap tire challenge.
Goodyear recognizes two separate and
The first problem is the whole and
shredded tires that are stockpiled in almost every state in the nation.
Owners call them assets because of their perceived value for fuel or other
use. Everyone else realizes the piles are liabilities and will cost more
to remove than they are worth in fuel value.
There is little or no turnover of the
tires stored, and many are abandoned. A 4 million tire pile, which is not
uncommon, can represent an income of $1 million to the collector. Unfortunately,
the stockpiles are breeding grounds for mosquitoes and fire hazards. There
also is concern for who is responsible if the owner cannot finance the
eventual cleanup of the pile.
Technology over the last 20 years
has doubled the mileage and lifespan of the typical passenger tire, sebsequently
reducing the amount of discarded tires.
Any solution must address the various
sources of scrap tires. Goodyear's priority is the immediate recycling
and recovery of scrap tires through viable, non-subsidized markets.
Putting tires in stockpiles or landfills
- even with shredded materials - provides few benefits. For the first time,
less than one-third of the U.S. scrap tires now go to stockpiles or landfills.
The majority of tires now placed in landfills have been cut or shredded.
The second problem is the current annual
replacement of 253 million tires. Almost 90 percent are returned by the
consumer to thousands of retail locations across the country when worn
out tires are replaced by new ones.
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Solutions to the Scrap Tire Challenge
Five alternatives exist for addressing
the scrap tire challenge:
- The first most desirable alternative is source reduction. Goodyear continually
strives to reduce the number of tires that are worn out each year. Today’s
Goodyear radial tires last twice as long as their predecessors of 20 years
The average motorist may wear out just
one or two sets of radial tires per automobile instead of three or four
sets of the old bias-ply design. Tomorrow’s tires will last even longer.
Understanding the importance of reuse, Goodyear has capitalized on its
six decades of retreading technology. The company is the industry leader
in the application of new tread for truck and aviation tires.
Significant improvements in retreading
permit the average truck tire to be retreaded 2 or 3 times. Airplane tires
are retreaded up to 12 times.
Unlike certain plastics, paper and
metal products that can be recycled, cured rubber cannot be returned to
its virgin state for reuse in a new tire.
Elsewhere, a number of processors pulverize
scrap rubber into fine powder for use as a filler in products such as floor
mats, carpet backing, a variety of molded goods and rubberized asphalt.
Whole tires, because of their durability,
have made excellent protective shore barriers, fish habitats and highway
impact barriers. These innovative uses of scrap tires were pioneered by
Goodyear in the early 1970’s. Many of the barriers and reefs still are
- True recycling of vulcanized rubber products through devulcanization
is difficult in products like tires where 4 or 5 different rubbers are
used in different components.
– Goodyear is a leading advocate for the use of scrap tires as a fuel source
-- technology that is transforming the ties into energy.
The energy-rich scrap tire that once
sat useless on a stock pile, a garbage dump or a roadside, can help generate
energy to run plants and supply electricity for homes. It also can provide
energy and iron oxide for cement production.
Tires have about 40 percent more energy
value per pound than coal and an energy value equal to oil. The energy
released by the combustion of one passenger tire is equal to almost two
gallons of oil.
- Finally, when tires are shredded, they do not create an environmental
problem in landfills. A recent study by Radian Consultants verified that
scrap tires do not create hazardous leachate. Shredded tires take up less
space than whole tires, and their ability to burn is greatly reduced.