Rubber Tire Recycling – Where Tires Find New Life

Rubber Tire Recycling – Where Tires Find New Life

We’ve all seen pictures of mountains of rubber tires and wondered: what do they do with those? The answer is in rubber tire recycling and re-use.

Rubber Tire Recycling: How Much is Out There and What is it Used for?

rubber tire recycling and re-useWith the hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the world, it’s no wonder rubber tire recycling is such a big topic. From the playgrounds with kids bouncing in, on, and around recycled rubber products, to football field turf and training camps, all the way to fuel and asphalt, the rubber tire recycling process yields many useful products. In order to understand how recycled rubber ends up being used in so many different ways, it’s helpful to first know how much material is out there, and where it comes from.

The Rubber Tire Recycling Process and Why The is Urgency Around it

The idea of recycling old, unwanted rubber tires is pretty simple: when a tire can’t be re-surfaced or re-grooved and is worn past the use of being safe anymore on a vehicle, it gets sent out to be recycled. Of the estimated 250 billion tires disposed of each year, 20 percent are thrown away illegally, so there’s a sense of urgency around availability and knowledge of rubber tire recycling programs around the United States. One of the most common uses for recycled rubber requires that it be broken down into small pieces called crumb rubber.

What’s the process for recycling rubber tires into crumb rubber?

  1. Cut Into 2” Pieces: First, the tires are cut into pieces about 2” in a shredding machine. This step preps the pieces to be processed and broken down.
  2. The Granulator: The process brings the chips of rubber down to an even smaller size of 3/8” and also removes most of the steel and fiber from the rubber.
  3. Magnetic Removal: The third step in the process is removing the remaining steel magnetically while the fiber is removed through mesh shaking screens and wind sifters.
  4. Make it Smaller for Fine Product: Depending on the use of the material, many products require an even smaller, finer granule of recycled rubber. A variety of machines can be used by recycling companies to make these pieces even smaller and more fine.

70 million tires are recycled each year into crumb rubber.

This is the most common use for recycled tire rubber. Unlike using whole tires on playgrounds and climbing playsets, rubber crumb is an expensive product that’s become very popular over the last decade. It’s used on playground surfaces, synthetic turf for football and soccer fields, sport courts, whole synthetic ground covering and removable speed bumps to name just a few.

20 million tires are recycled each year into civil engineering uses.

Crumb rubber is used in civil engineering all over the US, most commonly on our roadways and highways to create quieter roads, better drainage off the side of roads, for dampening rail vibration, and in barriers for slide repairs.

Crumb rubber used in asphalt is meant to allow cars to have better traction on the road and prevent cracks from happening as frequently as they do. Next time you’re cruising down the highway, see what you can notice of these products, because they’re everywhere.

In 2015, over 117 million tires were used for TDF fuel.

This includes electric utility boilers (29 percent), pulp and paper mills (32 percent) and cement kilns (39 percent). Using recycled rubber the correct ways in many US factories has proved to be more efficient and eco-friendly than some of the old ways.  

The trucking industry is one of the largest consumers for tire-use.

What makes the wheels of a trucking company turn (both literally and figuratively)? Rubber tires. Understandably, trucking companies go through more tires than most other U.S. industries. In fact, they combine to order more than 6 million tires each year.

One fleet of trucks, Lakin Tire,  has decided to go into the business of helping recycle the rubber tires they use so much. They offer pick-up of unwanted, unused tires both nationally and locally and recycle them in an eco-friendly way. Located in San Jose, CA, they serve a wide variety of clientele including new tire retailers, automotive service centers, military facilities, car dealerships, and government institutions.

Whether your company has the need to recycle tires because of high use or you are in the business of recycling, understanding the how and why of tire recycling is important. Tire recycling is a large industry and the demand for the finished, refined product that comes from recycled tires is still big.

You might also like: E-Waste Recycling Could be the Next Big Thing


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