Recycling old car tires is important for both environmental and economic reasons. Over 290 million tires are discarded in the United States each year, and less than 7% of them are recycled. The rest end up in landfills, stockpiles, or illegal dumps. Tires contain recyclable components like rubber, steel, and textiles that require significant resources to manufacture.
Recycling tires conserves these resources and reduces the need for landfill space. Recycled tire rubber can be used to create products like athletic tracks, playground surfaces, and asphalt. There are many options for consumers to properly recycle old tires, which this article will outline.
Tire Recycling Overview
The first step is knowing what to look for when it comes to tire recycling programs. Here are some key things to consider:
- Accessibility: How close is the recycling location and what are the hours of operation? This can determine the convenience of dropping off old tires.
- Cost: Some recyclers charge small fees to accept tires, while others provide free recycling. Fees help fund the recycling process.
- Tire types accepted: Most recyclers accept standard passenger car and light truck tires. Some also take specialty tires like those from tractors or motorcycles. Off-road tires usually cannot be recycled.
- Condition of tires: Tires should be intact without excessive damage. Some minor tread wear is fine but sidewall punctures or damage may be rejected.
- Rims accepted: Some recyclers only take tires while others accept tires on rims. This determines if you need to have tires removed from rims beforehand.
- Volume limits: Recyclers may have restrictions on the number of tires they can accept from individuals during a single visit or per year. This ensures adequate capacity.
So when looking for tire recycling options, keep these key factors in mind to match with the tires you need to recycle. Checking requirements beforehand ensures your old tires will be accepted.
Where You Can Go to Recycle Car Tires?
1. Retail Tire Stores
One convenient option for tire recycling is taking old tires back to the retail store where you purchased new ones. Tire dealers are required by law in most states to accept old tires from consumers. When buying new tires, ask the retailer if they offer recycling of old tires. Most major tire companies like Goodyear, Firestone, and Michelin participate in take-back programs. They collect old tires dropped off by consumers and truck them to larger recycling facilities. Some tire stores charge small fees like $2-$5 per tire for recycling.
Visit the company website or contact your local store to check current recycling policies. Some tire stores may have volume limits on the number of tires accepted for recycling during a single visit. Planning multiple trips or finding an alternate recycler may be necessary if you have a large number of tires to dispose of. The convenience of tire store recycling makes it one of the best options for small numbers of tires.
2. Scrap Tire Yards
Scrap tire yards or recycling centers accept tires from both retail businesses and general public consumers. They are a good option if you have more than just a couple old tires to recycle. Scrap tire yards have the equipment and transportation systems to efficiently haul large volumes of tires to recycling markets. Drop-off fees at scrap yards typically range from $1-$5 per passenger tire. They may accept tires with or without rims but not damaged tires with sidewall punctures. Tractor tires, forklift tires, skid steer tires, and other specialty tires can often be recycled at scrap yards for slightly higher fees than passenger tires.
Contact your local scrap tire yard to check on their specific fees, volume limits, and other acceptance policies. Make sure to call ahead before dropping off tires unannounced. There are hundreds of scrap tire yards across the country, so search online for options in your region. This is the most scalable solution for recycling higher numbers of tires.
3. Tire Retailer Mail-In Programs
For those without convenient local tire recycling options, major retailers like Pep Boys and Walmart offer free mail-in recycling programs. You pay a small fee to have your old tires shipped to a recycling center. Shipping costs are typically $6-$20 per tire depending on location. Retailers provide pre-labeled boxes and shipping instructions for packaging and sending tires through UPS or other carriers. Most mail-in programs can handle tires up to 20 inches in diameter. You remove tires from rims and deflate them before packing into the box. Mail-in recycling reaches recyclers that safely recover rubber, steel, and other tire components at large scale. This gives even remote locations access to tire recycling options.
Visit the retailer’s website for details on current mail-in recycling programs. Submitting an online form or contacting customer support starts the process. While not as convenient as local drop-off, mail-in recycling provides wider access for recycling tires in areas without scrap yards. It also helps recyclers reach economies of scale to make tire recycling affordable across the country.
4. Municipal Household Hazardous Waste
Check with your city or county’s household hazardous waste (HHW) program to see if they accept tires. These facilities collect hazardous and problematic materials like chemicals, batteries, electronics, and sometimes tires from residents for proper disposal. HHW recycling is usually free but limited to 2-8 tires per visit and only accept tires without rims. They may restrict tire types to just passenger and light trucks.
As government-run facilities, HHW locations can provide recycling options when private businesses are lacking. But due to budget constraints, their capacity is limited compared to large private scrap yards. Contact your local HHW program or environmental agency to check if they currently accept tires from residents and any volume or tire type restrictions.
5. Socially Responsible Tire Recyclers
Some tire recycling companies have explicit missions to keep tires out of landfills through economic incentives. For example, Liberty Tire Recycling collects a disposal fee at the wholesale level when new tires are first sold. This funds free drop-off recycling of old tires from retail partners and consumers. With 110 facilities across the country, they provide widespread recycling access. Organizations like the Tire Stewardship of Rhode Island and the Alberta Recycling Management
Association in Canada operate similar consumer fee-funded programs for affordable tire recycling. A consumer fee on new tires pays for recycling old ones while creating local jobs. Non-profits like WREN Phelan in California focus on training workers for tire recycling jobs. Socially-conscious companies demonstrate how tire recycling can benefit both the environment and communities when properly funded.
6. Illegal Tire Dumping Recycling Efforts
Tire piles illegally dumped in fields and abandoned properties are an unfortunate blight across the country. They pose health risks and can be difficult and expensive to clean up. But opportunities exist to recycle these tires through scrap yard partnerships, government grants, and social enterprises. For example, Recycled Rubber in Missouri partners with municipalities to recycle illegally dumped tire sites into rubber mulch.
And non-profits like Recycling Angel in Colorado receive grant funding to clean up illegal tire dumps while providing jobs to at-risk youth. Consumers can support these efforts by volunteering for cleanup events or donating to organizations that address illegal tire dumping. While prevention is ideal, recycling programs help manage the current problem of dumped tires and regain valuable resources.
Barriers to Tire Recycling
While tire recycling options have expanded in recent years, barriers still limit higher recycling rates. Here are some of the main challenges:
- Cost: The costs of collecting and transporting tires for recycling can still exceed the value of recovered material in some regions. This limits private investment into recycling capacity.
- Awareness: Many consumers still don’t know about tire recycling options or prioritize it. Increased education and public information on proper tire disposal is needed.
- Infrastructure: Areas lacking recycling facilities within a reasonable distance incur higher transportation costs. Public and private investment is needed to develop more widespread recycling infrastructure.
- Market Development: Strong and stable markets for recycled tire material don’t fully exist yet. This limits the economic viability of tire recycling operations.
- Policy: Recycling mandates, disposal bans, and consumer fee programs create powerful incentives but are still limited in scope nationally.
While progress has been made, these factors continue to constrain tire recycling rates compared to traditional disposal. Ongoing advocacy, investment, and partnerships are key to addressing these barriers.
The Future of Tire Recycling
Major strides have been made in tire recycling over the past 30 years since the EPA called it an environmental priority. The recycling rate increased from 11% in 1991 to 81% in 2021, with room for further progress. Growing state disposal bans will expand recycling mandates nationally. New technology like microwave pyrolysis aims to make recycling cheaper and more efficient at commercial scale. Partnerships between governments, businesses, and non-profits will strengthen local recycling infrastructure. Market development will identify higher-value uses for recycled rubber like 3D printing, rubberized asphalt, and molded products.
And public education programs will drive wider participation in tire recycling and proper disposal. While barriers remain, the stage is set for tire recycling to play an expanding role in the circular economy. Proper tire disposal and strong recycling programs will prove critical to reducing waste and building sustainable communities.
Responsibly recycling old tires is crucial to creating a zero-waste future. Thankfully, consumers have more options than ever through retail stores, scrap yards, mail-in programs, government recycling, and socially-conscious organizations. The most convenient and affordable choice depends on your location, number of tires, and type of tires. Now that you know where to bring old tires for recycling, you can properly dispose of them while conserving resources and making space in landfills.
If your local options are lacking, support efforts to improve recycling infrastructure and make tire stewardship a priority. With more consumers using available recycling programs, illegal dumping and waste can be reduced. Become part of the solution by exploring the tire recycling options available to you. Your efforts keep tires out of landfills and extend the life cycle of valuable material.