"Tires are very, very challenging," says Gerry Acuna, the president of Tri Recycling Inc., who has been involved in recycling for 12 years.
"The material used to make tires is oil and you"re talking about very nasty material there. Tires should certainly not go into the landfills and tire burning is extremely toxic."
So where should you take your tires to prevent them from ending up in an improper place?
Most communities have recycling programs that accept tires, but you may have to take them to a drop-off location rather than placing them in your common curbside bin.
One way to recycle tires is to use them as long as it is safe to do so and repair them when possible, rather than just discarding them.
However, if you end up getting a flat tire that is not repairable, usually the store or dealer that replaces it will dispose of it properly for a small fee, or even no charge at all. The same policy generally applies when you are purchasing new tires for a vehicle or bicycle—the company you"re buying them from will most likely dispose of the old ones for you, or be able to recommend a close-by drop off location.
There are also national retailers such as Big O Tires and Firestone that allow tire drop-offs at their stores. Check with the locations in your area for details on their specific policies.
Acuna notes that the cost of tires is sometimes associated with research dedicated to tire recycling.
"The fees you pay when you buy new tires [are] being used to develop technologies for tire recycling."
An exciting report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture"s Agricultural Research Services mentions a possible new method for how tires could be recycled.
"ARS scientists have found a way to recycle and reuse old tires by extracting the pulverized rubber and polyester/nylon mixture and dividing it into two separate materials."
As a result, "Products such as new tires, truck bed liners, running tracks, shoes, carpet backing, brake pads and shoes, asphalt, water hoses, and floor mats can be made from the recycled rubber."
Currently, there are limited uses for recycled tires.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources provides details about some of them.
"Chips of shredded tire rubber are used as fill in engineering projects. More finely chipped and screened tire rubber is used is playground and landscaping mulch. Crumb rubber is used to make better asphalt, while rubber mixed with urethane is used to make athletic track surfaces and a variety of molded products."
They also note the use of recycled tires for creating surfaces for athletic purposes, "Scrap tire rubber is even integrated right into turf. Research has shown this to be particularly beneficial in high-use areas, as the rubber helps reduce soil compaction, improving drainage and reducing the need for water, fertilizer and pesticides for between 25 and 50 years."
You can also reduce the frequency of your tire recycling by taking proper care of your tires currently in use. Follow the recommended guidelines for rotating your tires, maintaining the ideal level of pressure in them, and checking often for leaks or small holes.