The day begins to wane as you watch the vibrant sunset from the comfort of your trusty canoe, allowing the sun’s fleeting rays to warm your soul. As you paddle along you take note of the tiny turtle family sunbathing amidst a floating log on the nearby bank, and the rhythmic lull of the flowing river as the bow of the canoe bisects the current. You begin to comment on the perfection of the pristine panorama you are beholding, but what is that in the distance obstructing your view…a pile of tires? Unfortunately this has happened to me and many others across the world as we face an epidemic of illegally dumped tires in our lovely waterways, parks, roadsides, and just about anywhere imaginable. As unanesthetically pleasing as this may be, abandoned tires cause far worse problems to our environment and health. With a little education and effort we can eradicate-or take steps to prevent- the tire pile-up by recycling, repurposing, or reusing these tires in new and innovative ways.
Why are tires being abandoned in the first place? We are experiencing a lack of enforcement in our anti-littering and anti-dumping laws, but moreover I believe it is due to a lack in knowledge of alternatives. More often than not I see people following others’ leads; if there is already a pile of used tires in one location then more are bound to be added. In more recent decades we have discovered many problems with dumping tires in landfills, and with 3 million tires being discarded yearly, where do they all need to go? In Tennessee, for example, we have enacted a law called The Solid Waste Management Act of 1991, which prohibits the disposal of whole tires in landfills. Whole tires placed in landfills create 75% of unused space. Realizing this fact, landfills see the cost ineffectiveness of tires and will often turn them away. As mentioned previously, without knowledge of other alternatives we have noticed the buildup of improper dumping in places they clearly do not belong.
So what’s the problem with a little tire pile up?
On land, there are two main concerns with the pile up of tires, the first is pests. Stationary tires will collect stagnant water which becomes the ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes; with the rise in disease carrying mosquitoes we want to try and reduce the growth of these harmful creatures as much as possible. In addition to mosquitoes, rodents and other vermin find tire piles to be ideal homes for their families.
There is also a concern that tire piles are easy targets for arson. Tire fires are extremely challenging to extinguish and can cause copious amounts of black smoke to permeate the air. Since tires consist of many different materials, once burned, there tends to be oily remnants which penetrate into the earth’s surface soil, causing it to be unusable. That’s why tire recycling is the best best option to catalyze a sustainable Earth.
As our government and its citizens become more environmentally conscious we have seen a rise in the availability and options for proper tire recycling. Bridgestone Americas is a proud sponsor of Lightning 100’s Team Green Adventures and we have spent years cleaning up tires along our waterways with the help of their Tires4ward Recycling Program. Any individual can organize a cleanup, then use their community cleanup Request Form to get assistance properly disposing of the tires. Sometimes this means delivering the tires to a local Bridgestone Firestone Complete Auto Care facility, and sometimes (with larger loads of tires) a recycling partner of Bridgestone Americas will pick up the tires at a designated location. Some tire dealerships will also collected used tires, but check for fees associated with recycling. There are also tire collection sites and recycling centers, which you can learn about through TN.gov.
Moving forward it is important to initiate a change among your community, friends, and family by encouraging and educating them on the different recycling options. What can be done with all the abandoned tires currently? Tire clean-ups are a great way to give back to your community and spread good vibes! In 2015 alone, we have removed 118 tires from three local waterways. In 2014 another 90+ tires were removed. Let’s consider repurposing these unwanted environmental hazards into something useful.
Yoga mats, basketball courts, flip-flops, rubberized asphalt, and rubber mulch are just a few of the innovative repurposing uses of unwanted tires. As you may have noticed, playgrounds are becoming a big proponents for this rubber mulch.
Some benefits are:
- It is safer than regular mulch because the resiliency of rubber creates more of a cushion for children as they play.
- It lasts a lot longer than mulch. Since it doesn’t biodegrade like mulch, the life expectancy is significantly longer (usually around 10 years).
- With a higher upfront cost but a lower long term cost, it is also more cost effective.
The way tires are repurposed is a process called devulcanization, in which the ground up tire pieces are heated to create a pliable substance. With a little creativity and innovation you could easily take your old tires and create something useful for yourself. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas on ways to repurpose old tires on your own. You can find step-by-step instructables on various planters, outdoor decorations, or the obvious backyard tire swing. Get creative and find your own way to repurpose these items that works for your lifestyle!
Are you looking for a way to get involved and make a noticeable difference in the Nashville community? Join Team Green Adventures on Saturday, July 16th for our Percy Priest Island Float Cleanup and Saturday, August 20th for our Harpeth River Canoe Float & Cleanup. Any tires collected during these events will be repurposed through the Bridgestone Tires4ward Recycling Program.
-Lee Fowler (Team Green Adventures Community Engagement Coordinator)