WHAT IS IT
Most recyclable rubber comes from scrap tires. A tire is a highly engineered, composite product that is virtually indestructible under a variety of conditions. This originally made tires difficult to recycle as a material, but recyclers have invested millions of dollars in technologies and equipment to create efficient processes for reusing rubber.
Piles of shredded tires by Shuki. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
HOW IS IT USED
Of course, recycled tires can become lots of things – anyone else have a tire swing growing up? The durability of rubber tires makes them easy to reuse in their natural form in everything from furniture to planters.
When rubber tires are broken down for recycling, they usually go one of two ways – most recycled rubber tires (about 43%!) are used to make fuel. The remainder? Is usually ground up into chunks. This ground rubber can be recycled into athletic and recreational surfaces, rubberized asphalt pavements, irrigation, soil, or drainage systems, rubber window seals for automobiles, rubberized flooring, flowerpots, garden hoses, welcome mats, and more.
Creative reuse: an armchair made from old tires. Photo by Mwintirew, December 15, 2018. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
In the past, tires were often dumped into lakes, abandoned in lots, or alongside the road. Today, scrap tires are an important part of the manufacturing process, with more than 90% recycled and reused annually – a significant reduction in environmental litter. The cost of reclaiming and recycling rubber costs less than producing new rubber and relieves pressure on the sensitive tropical ecosystems where rubber trees grow.
Special soccer balls donated by the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, made of 24% recycled rubber materials. UN Geneva, photo by Jean-Marc Ferre, September 17, 2010. Courtesy of flickr.
Rubber actually comes from a tree? The first documented use of natural rubber was by the Olmecs of South America – to make a sports ball!
Lego manufactures more tires than any other tire manufacturer? They hold the Guinness World Record for most tires manufactured per year!
Approximately 300 million scrap tires are generated annually in the United States – one discarded scrap tire for every American.