Sometimes, I get an image of our poor, tired environment,
struggling to hold its own against a tidal wave of pollution,
contamination, and destruction. Technology is great; but the
strain it places on the environment is enormous.
Take a simple, everyday part of modern society: the rubber
tire. Every single year, over 290 MILLION tires are discarded,
in the USA alone. Non-biodegradable and irregularly shaped,
discarded tires can sit around for the next hundred thousand
years, posing a serious threat to our environment.
What happens to all of these tires? Well, the simplest way—just
tossing them—can lead to some serious environmental consequences.
Scrap tires, with their irregular shape and steel components,
are not allowed in regular landfills; they could easily ruin
the lining of the landfills, allowing the ground and surface
water to mix with the contaminated substances in the landfill.
Left without a convenient place to toss their tires, many people
just dump their tires illegally into any empty spot: canyons,
empty lots, and anywhere else.
There the tires sit, collecting rainwater and attracting disease-carrying
insects. As breeding grounds for mosquitoes, these tires pose
a hazard for people, livestock, and the environment. And although
the environment might not protest immediately, all of those
spare tires take away an awful lot of her natural beauty.
Worst of all, though, is when disaster strikes, and all of
those sitting tires catch fire. In the towns of Tracy and Westley,
for example, tire fires burned for months on end, consuming
some 14 million tires, while belching clouds of toxic smoke
pollution into the environment. The oily runoff from the tires
enters the ground as well, and is harmful for people and the
environment as well.
The million dollar question is, what can be done about this?
And the simple solution, the one that our environment has approved
of so many times in the past, is recycling.
Although they may be nuisances for the environment, tires—even
old, unusable ones—are still very useful commodities.
For one thing, rubber tires are repositories of the non-renewable
petroleum products which went into their original creation.
When tires are incinerated, they yield substantial sources of
useful power, reclaimed from the energy stored within them.
Many tire-recycling facilities use the tires as fuel, thereby
conserving and reusing this energy.
However, there are countless other uses for discarded tires,
which work wonders for the environment while providing people
with useful products. A significant portion of used tires are
used to form recycled rubber products,
notably rubber mulch, a product which is made
by shredding the rubber tires after removing the steel components.
Rubber mulch is used for a variety of purposes: playground
covering, landscape mulch,
arena footing, and even athletic
fields. Studies have shown rubber mulch to be the most shock-absorbent
playground cover available. And when it comes to the tires’
non-biodegradable properties, this actually serves as an advantage
for consumers—once you mulch with recycled rubber, you
never have to mulch again! Rubber mulch is used for a variety of purposes: playground covering, landscape mulch, arena footing and athletic fields. Rubber Mulch is also commonly used as fall material under ropes courses, obstacle courses, military training pits, hand to hand combat pits and as a back stop in gun ranges.
Truly, recycled rubber is a win-win proposition, both for consumers
and for the environment. No trees die in the creation of rubber
mulch; recycling saves landfill space; and consumers get a truly
So these days, I get a mental image of a weary but smiling
environment, happily surrounded by recycled rubber. Though the
fight for the environment is far from over, at least we’re
doing our share!