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Scrap-Tire Recycling

Fact sheets on the various ways to recycle scrap tires.

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General Facts about Scrap Tires

Scrap tires can be a valuable commodity. Beneficial end uses for scrap tires can curb illegal tire dumping while diverting tires from landfill disposal. Creating long-term sustainable uses for scrap tires can help local governments in Texas solve illegal tire dumping issues while preventing tire fires and controlling disease vectors (mosquitoes, rats, and snakes) which are common concerns associated with scrap tire sites.

Regular maintenance of vehicle tires can prolong tire life- see Tire Maintenance (PDF). ( Take Care of Texas) - a statewide campaign designed to involve all Texans in lifestyle and habit changes that will help improve air and water quality, conserve water and energy, reduce waste, and save individuals a little money in the process shares tips to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions from your vehicle, with the first step being proper tire inflation. By keeping your tires at their maximum recommended pressure, they will last longer, deliver better gas mileage, and be safer on the road.

Used Tires Are Different from Scrap Tires

Anyone who stores more than 500 scrap tires must register with the TCEQ; however, the scrap tire rules apply to all Scrap Tire Generators and handlers, regardless of whether they are registered. Good reusable tires are not considered scrap tires if they are stacked, sorted, classified, and arranged in an organized manner for sale. Good used tires that are stored in stockpiles are scrap tires. Scrap tires must be hauled by a registered transporter to an authorized facility, either a permitted landfill or a scrap tire facility.

Retreading tires is another method to conserve tire resources. Retread tires are not scrap tires, but should be stacked, sorted, classified, and arranged in an organized manner for sale. Organizations dedicated to safe recycling of tires through tire retreading and tire repair can be found on the world wide web by searching for industry bureau and associations dedicated to tire retread and repair.

What To Do With Scrap Tires

There are many options to recycle, reuse in the original form, or modify scrap tires. Beneficial use of Scrap tires is as diverse as Texas itself, and is based on local needs, innovation and collaboration. There is Guidance for Project Involving Beneficial Use of Scrap Tires (TCEQ-10302) and local research should be a first step toward successfully finding or creating management options for beneficial uses of scrap tires.

The composition of a tire makes different types of scrap tires suitable for specific reuse. To find out more about the composition of a tire, associations representing tire manufacturers of rubber and tires are helpful sources which track national trends in scrap tire management and share innovative and economical end uses for scrap tires. Another excellent source of information on recycling or reusing scrap tires is the Environmental Protection Agency's recently reorganized Web site for Scrap Tires .

Beneficial Uses of Used tires, Whole Scrap Tires or Tire Shreds

There are many ways in which whole tires can be reused in their original form, or with slight modifications. Planters, retaining walls, raised bed gardens, compost bins, bird baths and the tire swing are just a few things made from scrap tires. Tire rings can be placed around saplings to protect damage to the bark when trimming around them. Whole scrap tires have been used in building local playground structures, such as swings, forts, and climbers, changing a flat play lot into a tire fort, castle, or fitness center.

A scrap tire should be scrubbed with hot soapy water before coming in contact with your family. Tires take latex paint beautifully. For major projects, check with your local officials and the TCEQ Tire Program to insure that it is not in conflict with State, Agency, or local laws, regulations, or requirements and that the activity does not interfere with another person's use and enjoyment of their property. Fully discuss and explain your beneficial use plan and get approval by local authorities that have jurisdiction over such a project. Whole scrap tires have been previously approved for the following uses:

  • Planters
  • Padding for equipment deliveries
  • Sidewalls and backstop for a pistol range
  • Paint ball game court or miniature golf course
  • Erosion control or bank stabilization

Scrap tires, when properly engineered, can be used for erosion control, terracing, retaining walls, steps, bridge supports, dams, and levees. Scrap tires are low cost, readily available, durable and have been used as:

  • low height or gravity retaining structures
  • geotextile-reinforced tire walls (used by the National Parks Service)
  • tire dam (used on Kings Anvil Ranch near Tucson, AZ)

An industry standard two inch shredded tire chips are suitable for use in septic systems and are very competitive with prices for clean, washed and graded gravel. Replacing gravel with tire shreds could save 10 to 90 percent of the cost of using gravel. Transportation costs can also be less since tire shreds are about three times lighter than gravel.

Municipal Solid Waste regulations in Texas allow landfill owners/operators to use tire shreds as an alternative material for daily cover (allowed by permit provision or modification pursuant to 30 Texas Administrative Code and is site specific). Tire shreds can also be used as part of the leachate collection system, the alternative second foot of protective cover over landfill liner that uses a synthetic membrane, in the primary drainage layer for a liner system, in the drainage layer within final cover system, and as media used within landfill gas vents.

Other ways to support beneficial reuse of tires is to purchase tire mulch or other products made of recycled tire materials from your local hardware store or retailer.

Texas Department of Transportation Partnership

In the mid-1990s, the Texas Department of Transportation partnered with the TCEQ to document innovative approaches to using scrap tires. One of the first projects was with the city of El Paso, which participated in a study where the El Paso Bridge Embankment project which used 60,000 tire shreds.

The Texas Department of Transportation engineers roadway, bridge and other projects using scrap tires in the form of crumb rubber, tire shreds and tire bales. Roadway projects routinely use crumb rubber in asphalt-rubber hot mix, seal coats, crack seals, and molded rubber products such as parking stops, delineator posts, decking boards, and bases for traffic control devices.

The 2007 Report of beneficial scrap tires uses in Texas notes roadway contracts which used 15,300 tons of scrap tire rubber in FY06. Two historical reports include Progress Report on Using Scrap Tires and Crumb Rubber in Highway Construction Projects: January 1, 2002 and January 1, 2001.

Other Scrap Tire Uses

Scrap tires can be used to produce molded and extruded productsand the TCEQ has permitted the combustion of Tire-Derived Fuel (PDF) at several facilities in Texas, most of them cement kilns. The TCEQ believes that scientific evidence has demonstrated that tires can be safely burned for fuel provided proper emission control devices are used ( Review of Air Emissions Associated with Tire-Derived Fuel (PDF)).

Projects called Land-Reclamation Projects Using Tires - which require a notification are projects to fill, rehabilitate, improve, or restore already excavated, deteriorated, or disturbed land, using no more than 50 percent by volume of tire pieces along with inert fill materials. Approved projects restore land to its approximate natural grade to prepare or reclaim the land for reuse.

In recent years, research on uses for scrap tires and advances in technology have created many new markets and innovative applications. Pyrolysis which is the thermal distillation or decomposition of organic materials into oils, gases, and char, has been proposed as a method to break down tires into usable end products including steel, oil, and carbon black. Despite many efforts to commercialize this technology, it is not economically viable in the US at present. The products of tire pyrolysis have limited marketability (due to their low quality compared to virgin materials), high product cost, high operating cost; high capital investment and expensive equipment. These issues usually make tire pyrolysis too expensive.

Manifest Use Tracks Scrap Tires

The manifest is simply a cradle-to-grave record of the disposition of each load of scrap tires removed from a generator site. The generator completes and signs the first section of the manifest showing how many tires were picked up. The transporter signs the manifest and leaves a copy with the generator. When the tires are delivered to an authorized disposal or end use facility, the final sections of the manifest are completed, showing the number of tires. All end use facilities using scrap tires must keep a copy of the manifest for tracking purposes. A copy of the manifest form (TCEQ-10304) (PDF) can be downloaded and reprinted or an alternate record can be used if approved by the TCEQ.