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Applications of Whole Waste Tires

The unique properties of waste tires have made the elimination of waste tire stockpiles difficult. Several of these problems are associated with their toughness (difficult to break down and decompose), durability (difficult to process), shape (large void space, poor space efficiency for storage and transportation) and volume (occupies a large volume).
On the other hand, once a suitable usage (second life) is identified for waste tires, few materials can match their properties to the same level including, durability and toughness. A main focus of application of whole waste tires is to utilize these unique properties and characteristics.
Today, many of the applications are in civil engineering related fields. Whole waste tires have found demand, suitability and economic advantages in fields such as erosion control, highway crash barriers, breakwaters, dams, artificial reefs, playground equipment, etc. The main technological challenge resides in optimization of merits and identifying new areas for applications.
In 1998, the total number of waste tires used in these applications was less than 10 % of the total number discarded annually. This number represents an increase of more than 100 % over the previous 8 years.

Examples of Applications:

Erosion Control:
Several research groups have reported on the design and testing of erosion control applications of waste tires.
Scrap tires were banded together and partially or completely buried on unstable slopes. These reports have stated that tires used with other stabilization materials to reinforce unstable slopes remained stable and provided economical and effective solutions. Construction costs may be reduced by 50 to 75 % of the lowest cost alternative such as rock, wire-mesh/stone matting, or concrete protection1)2).

Tire dams may be more suitable for rapid-flowing streams compared to conventional dams. Conventional dams are made of sand and gravel and are easily washed out by streams. Concrete dams are costly and require skilled personnel to build.
Tires possess sufficient strength as a dam construction material. They catch and hold sediments effectively. Moreover, the construction procedure does not require highly-skilled personnel.
From a waste tire management point of view, dam construction could utilize a large number of tires compared to other applications3).

See Scrap Tires Used for Arizona Earth Dam, Goodyear for detail
Artificial Reefs:
Artificial reefs are constructed by splitting tires in half and staking them in a triangular fashion. Holes are drilled through the stack and about 45 pounds of concrete per tire are poured in the holes to anchor the reef. The 1800 pound 3-feet high reefs are then hauled by barge 4 to 12 miles off of the coast and dumped in 60 to 100 feet of water. These reefs provide habitat for marine organisms and fish4).
The artificial reefs are a relatively cheap solution but this application does not seem to have great potential. Artificial reefs are restricted to fairly calm sandy coastlines where reef development is needed. The demand for such artificial reefs is less than 1 percent of the annual generation of waste tires in the United States.

Breakwaters and Floats:
Breakwaters are off-shore barriers that protect a harbor or shore from the full impact of the waves.
The breakwater concept employs waste tires as a durable material for resisting wear and erosion. Waste tires may also be filled with material, such as foam, in order to float devices such as marinas and docks4).
These applications are not likely to consume a large number of waste tires, but tires perform well in applications where floats are needed.

Highway Crash Barriers:
Stacked tires may be bound by a steel cable and enclosed with fiber glass in order to reduce or absorb the impact of an automobile crash. At racing circuits, this application is commonly used. State transportation departments generally prefer sand-filled crash barriers, because they have better energy absorption characteristics for low speed impact as well as low maintenance cost.

Playground Equipment:
Today, many schools and parks prefer wooden playground equipment. However, the cost for tire playground equipment is approximately 25 % of the cost of other alternatives4).

Export (Not counted as a recycling in this report):
In 1998, 15 million waste tires were exported.
Demand for used tires exists outside of the U.S. (and even within the U.S.). Used tires are sold as cheaper replacement tires. Export effectively extends tire life, like retreading. However, many researchers have argued that this should not be counted as recycling since the tires ultimately need to be discarded. If tires are exported from a country having relatively strict environmental regulations to a country not having any particular regulations, discarded or stockpiled tires would certainly cause similar environmental problems as mentioned previously.
The transportation of waste tires might introduce non-native small animals or insects to a new location causing an adverse impact to the local environment.

See also Waste Tire Problems - Mosquitoes Disease


  1. Paul S.H. Poh, Bengt B. Broms. Slope stabilization using old rubber tires and geotextiles.  Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities. Feb 1995 v9 n1 p76(4)
  2. Imad A. Basheer, Yacoub M. Najjar. Discussion. (response to Paul S.H. Poh and Bengt B. Broms, Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, vol. 9, February 1995)(Slope Stabilization Using Old Rubber Tires and Geotextiles) Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities Feb 1996 v10 n1 p40(1)
  3. Stuart A. Hoenig, Joshua Minyard. Nature-friendly dams. (rubber tires make an attractive, sturdy alternative) Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World Oct 1997 v4 n10 p9(2)
  4. U.S.Environmental Protection Agency et al, Scrap tire Technology and Markets Noyes Data Corporation, NJ 1993

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