Are your tires bare, worn, or leaking air? Those are probably signs that it’s time to send them to the junkyard and get a new set of rubber on your vehicle. But when it’s finally time to change up your tires and get fresh ones, where do your old tires go?
At one time, used tires were thrown in the trash or stockpiled in landfills. But now, in a world where we are trying our best to create programs that will find new purposes for any junk, you may find it reassuring to know that most used tires are collected and recycled.
Are you still finding yourself curious about what exactly recycling tires means, or what that looks like step by step? Well, that’s why this article was created! We’re here to shed some light on how the tire recycling process works.
Step 1: Collection
The first step in recycling used tires is collection. Tires can be collected from car dealerships, tire retailers, and service stations. They can also be collected from scrap yards and municipal solid waste facilities. Each of these industries produces and collects a surprising amount of rubber that needs to be disposed of, so the collection process is never done. Then, once tires are collected, they’re transported to a processing facility.
Step 2: Shredding
At the processing facility, tires are shredded into small pieces. The size of the pieces depends on what the tire will be used for. For example, if the tire is being used to make rubber mulch, it will be shredded into small pieces. If the tire is being used to make tire-derived fuel, it will be shredded into larger pieces. Regardless of the future fate of shredded rubber, rest assured that it will be a highly useful and sought-after product.
Step 3: Separation
After the tires have been shredded, they’re separated into two types of material: steel and rubber. The steel is removed from the rubber using a magnet. The rubber is then chopped into small pieces. The steel aspect of the tire is often transformed into important materials we use in everyday life, like alternate vehicle metals or machinery. Meanwhile, the rubber is repurposed and used for things like gravel substitutes. This process may sound tedious or difficult, but it’s a vital part of the tire recycling process, which is why there are large industrial machines to do the job!
Step 4: Cleaning
Many people don’t realize that their tire recycling process begins the moment they get a tire change. The small pieces of rubber are cleaned and washed to remove any contaminants such as dirt or rocks. This process is important to ensure that the recycled tire can be used again in the future. Once the tire has been properly cleaned, it can be used to create new tires, playground surfaces, or even roadways.
Step 5: Vulcanization
Vulcanizing rubber is a process of recycling tire rubber. The tire is heated in a closed mold which contains a metal form. The heat causes the tire to soften and conform to the shape of the mold. The tire is then cooled, resulting in a tire that is the same shape as the mold. Vulcanizing rubber also produces a product that is stronger and more durable than an untreated tire. This makes it an ideal material for recycling into new tires.
Step 6: End Results
The vulcanized rubber can then be used to make a variety of products such as playground surfaces, flooring, and speed bumps. It can also be used as an ingredient in asphalt or as tire-derived fuel. You may not know it, but it’s likely that you use a number of recycled tire products in your day-to-day life – and that includes anything from footwear to playground supplies!
Now that you know how tires are recycled, you can feel good about disposing of your old ones. From shredding to cleaning to vulcanization, it’s safe to say that your rubber tires will have a great and purposeful second life.
The tire change and recycling process may seem complex – and in some ways, it is. But every step that we take in recycling our old or used products is worthwhile if it means keeping these hazardous materials out of landfills. And who knows – maybe one day your old tires will come back to you in the form of a new pair of shoes!