Although today’s tires endure additional miles than they have in the past, the amount of cars on the road is increasing along with the average number of miles driven annually. According to the ninth report on scrap tire markets issued by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), one waste (also known as scrap) tire is discarded annually per person in the United States.
But where do all these tires go? To help us answer this question, RMA did an analysis of scrap tire management in the United States. In their latest report for 2007, they found that more scrap tires were consumed in end-use markets than ever before, 89.3 percent to be exact. These markets include tire-derived fuel, in which about 54% of the total scrap tires generated were burned for its use. Civil engineering, ground rubber applications, and other smaller markets are included in this.
Yet, even with all of the reuse and recycling efforts, a great number of scrap tires still end up in landfills each year. At the end of 2007, about 594.0 thousand tons of scrap tires were landfilled in the United States. This compares to the 477.2 thousand tons that were reportedly landfilled in 2005. These data indicated an increase in scrap tire landfilling in the last two years.
It was also reported that at the end of 2007, about 128.36 million scrap tires remained in stockpiles in the United States. Stockpiles truly are liabilities and are a growing issue of much concern. Aside from being unsightly, rainwater accumulates in these stockpiles which then become a breeding ground for an enormous number of mosquitoes that can transmit infectious diseases. The real primary concern though is fires. Tire pile fires have lasted for months, cost millions of dollars to fight, and required the evacuation of neighborhoods. They cause significant environmental harm from toxic soot fall-out and the run-off of oil and water. When burned, tires release irritants and potentially carcinogenic compounds into the atmosphere. Some experts no longer consider the question of “if” a stockpile will catch fire but “when” it will burn.
Considering all of these statistics, we should have more of an incentive to buy American-made products. So before we purchase “recycled” products sourced and manufactured off-shore, keep in mind that we need to clean up our enormous scrap tire problem here first.