Up until fairly recently, giant tire mountains were a feature of almost every North American town. They were referenced in pop culture, including shows like The Simpsons, where the Springfield Tire Yard became both a plot point and a punch line in several different episodes.
However, few giant tire mountains remain, and the biggest ones all but disappeared since the 90s. Of course, this is great news. While old tires by themselves are quite safe, tire mountains are generally considered to be eyesores and blights that harbor all kinds of pests. There’s also the very real danger of unattended open tire yards going up in flames, which can result in significant environmental damage and property losses.
Three major factors did in the old small town tire mountain, both of which we can be very thankful for.
1.) Longer tire lifespans
New tires today are made from tougher, more durable compounds and better designs than the tires of yesteryear. Most modern tires today can last up anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on the intended application. By contrast, tires manufactured with design specifications from before the mid-70s were bound to give out at around 10,000 miles.
Longer-lasting tires translate to into fewer tires being thrown discarded, which in turn means that the tire mountains grew a lot more slowly during the 80s, even with more cars on the road.
2.) New regulations
Since the 90s, 38 states have whole tire disposal in landfills. Of those states, 11 ban all tires from the landfills, including shredded tires. However, 11 other states still have no restrictions, so tire mountains are still a thing in some places. However, they are no longer as massive due to the last reason.
3.) Old tires are now a valuable resource
The rubber and steel from old tires now considered to be extremely valuable for a number of applications. As the production of natural rubber is no longer as sustainable as it was in previous decades, the natural rubber and synthetic rubber locked up in discarded tires is now seen to be a valuable resource, not just for turning into tire swings and sandals, but virtually all types of products where heat and abrasion resistance are required.
Thanks to the work of specialized tire recyclers, we can find old tire products and derivatives everywhere. Old tire crumbs can be added to virtually any number of rubber formulations to alter their properties and make them cheaper and more sustainable to produce. Shoe soles, yoga mats, and building insulation materials today will often incorporate old tires to make perform better and last longer.
Old tire chips are also quite valuable as asphalt filler. Why this application is not new, there is now a better understanding of how best to incorporate shredded tires into asphalt, allowing roads to be cheaper, more durable and quieter at the same time. This creates an appreciable improvement in the quality of life for people living near highways.
Thanks to these reasons, the old tire mountain will soon be a thing of the past, and that’s a good thing. Today specialized companies like Western Tire Recyclers are helping to make the most of old tires, leading the way into a more sustainable future – at least when it comes to old tires.
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