Just for fun, type “tire landfill” into your Google search bar. Click on the “images” tab and gaze upon the post-apocalyptic landscape. Now take a deep breath, calm your heart and absorb this important fact: because of the growth of the recycled rubber industry and increased demand for American made recycled rubber products, 80% of all scrap tires in the U.S. are saved from these graveyards and remade into useful, sometimes vital, products.
Rubber, the un-recycled kind, is made using one of two methods. Manufacturers either process unsaturated hydrocarbons, or they use natural latex found in certain plants. While the word “natural” is often synonymous with “good,” the reality is that plantations growing these latex producing plants will often invade tropical ecosystems.
Recycled rubber, on the other hand, can be refurbished, broken down or burned for energy called TDF. Manufacturing plants can run on the energy produced by burning rubber. Refurbished tires are retreaded and cycled back into industrial markets mostly for trucks. Broken down rubber, or “crumb rubber”, creates a variety of consumer products. Parking lot wheel stops, speed bumps, roof pavers, made from recycled rubber does not need to be replaced, painted or sealed and will last up to 10 to 25 years. Rubberized asphalt creates roads that are less prone to cracking with age which, in turn, decreases repair costs. Rubber mulch and rubber playground pads made from recycled rubber increase safety for children on the playground.
According to National Geographic:
Ground, recycled rubber mulch adds a shock-absorbing component to athletic fields andrunning tracks. Ground rubber is also cost-effective, clean, durable and less likely tocompact than traditional materials.
Over the last decade or two, we have become increasingly aware of the human impact on our environment and natural resources. Often, our instincts guide us to abstain from consuming reportedly harmful products. Sometimes, however, it is not what you give up, but the industries that you support that makes a difference. Take another look at those smoky rubber wastelands, but this time combat them with your new fact:
Research and advances in technology have lead to an increasing number of recycling opportunities for rubber. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, theU.S. generated more than 290 million scrap tires in 2003. About 233 million, or 80.4percent, of these tires were saved from the landfill and the rubber was recycled intoother valuable commodities.