Used tires have become a dilemma for many nations. Growing tire stockpiles in the United States, for example, create both fire and health hazards. Landfill space is limited. In addition, tires represent a significant resource. Both legislative and market forces are currently spurring the development of a tire recycling industry.
According to Washington's Scrap Tire Management Council, the United States has already accumulated 2 to 3 billion used tires. Moreover, about 240 million tires are added to these stockpiles every year (5:28). The discards consist of 200 million automobile tires and 40 million truck tires (3:1217). The state of California alone produces approximately 20 million used tires annually.
Such stockpiles create numerous environmental problems. Used tires do not degrade easily (17:211). Under certain conditions, tires may take as long as 80 years to disintegrate (18:70). In addition, they take up valuable landfill space. On its side, a single tire occupies about four square feet. Indeed, used tires represent about 1% of all municipal solid waste. The United States' landfills are filling up. Used tires are not only bulky, they trap air. This has a tendency to make landfills unstable. Finally, tires also don't stay covered up. Just like a glacial rock, a buried tire tends to "float:" over time, they work their way to the surface. In fact, certain states have passed laws banning tires from their landfills; moreover, many landfills themselves currently have policies which either ban the tires entirely, or impose excessive fees for their disposal (7:17).
In addition to being a environmental problem, used tire stockpiles also represent a significant fire hazard. Because of their chemical composition, tires themselves are combustible. Moreover, they burn at high temperatures. Such fires--which are usually the result of arson--produce thick, billowing clouds of acidulous black smoke (10:...