Every year millions of tires are discarded at landfills, never to be used again. This unfortunate outcome creates a myriad of environmental problems. Unlike other household waste, tires do not decompose and thus take up a tremendous amount of space at landfills, and space is something that our nation’s landfills have precious little to waste.
Moreover, discarded tires can become traps for methane gases, which break down the tires and cause pollutants to leach through the landfill liners, potentially polluting ground water reservoirs.
Because tires have become such a problem for landfills, many local municipalities have begun charging added fees to people who bring tires for deposit in the landfill because of the extra costs associated with discarded tires. This well-intentioned policy has had some negative effects, however, as it has led to a rise in illegal tire dumping, the environmental consequences of which are dire.
Industry leaders have been exploring different ways to lessen the environmental damage of old tires by coming up with creative recycling ideas on an industrial scale, including grinding the rubber down into a moldable product that can used in paving projects and also to create product like AstroTurf. Tires can also be broken down and turned into new tires.
However, certain studies have suggested that the carbon footprint of these large scale industrial tire recycling solutions is so high that the overall environmental benefit is lessened or even negligible when the final ecological equation has been calculated.
For this reason, recycling advocates have invested considerable thought and energy into coming up with ideas for reusing discarded tires in a fashion that takes less industrial effort, essentially using the tires as-is or with little modification.
You, too, can begin to implement some of these creative ideas for reusing tires, which vary from the obvious to the truly original. Here are a handful of those ideas, running the gamut from “duh” to “wow”.
Tire Swings – Tire swings were probably a part of your childhood, one so ingrained in society that you almost don’t realize that they are actually a pretty decent way to get some extended use out of an old tire. A sturdy rope or chain and a large tree are all you need to get some fun out of an old tire for any youngster.
Sandboxes – Another idea for kids fun – and this is particularly effective with bigger tires like those found on tractors – is to turn an old tire into a sandbox. With any tire-as-a-toy project, you want to make sure the tire is cleaned and checked for abrasive surfaces before use. And once you’ve filled the tire with sand, you probably want to create some sort of cover for it doesn’t become the neighborhood litter box.
Planters – Instead of sand, an old tire can be filled with dirt and mulch and used as a planter. It is recommended, however, that you stick to flowers and other decorative plants in your tire planters, as opposed to food products. There is some concern that tires can leak cadmium in the soil, which can be passed on to foods like potatoes and ingested into the blood stream causing problems. I can’t speak to the veracity of these claims, but they seem serious enough that I avoid using tires to plant edible flora.
A Man’s Room Table – Take two or three tires and affix them together (you can also paint or otherwise decorate them) and then careful adhere a sanded board (or if you are really clever a round piece of glass?) to the top and you have an end table for the garage or man’s room.
As Bumpers – You can use old tires cut up and strategically placed in the garage in case that new (or old) driver in your family has a tendency to space out and nail things in the garage. Similarly, an old tire can be a very effective bumper on a boat.
Build a House – Okay, from some obvious and relatively low key ideas to an ingenious and massive one. Some people have actually taken to using tires to construct green friendly houses. You fill the tires with earth and then plaster over them on both sides, building a wall, with the tires acting as the insulator. The earthen-filled tires are said to be excellent at keeping warmth inside the house during the winter months (and the opposite in summer).