Impacts of Waste Tire Disposal, and Why Recycling Matters

Waste tires are generally discarded after only a small amount of rubber is worn away. Even so, these tires are unfit for further use in the vehicles they were made for. In the United States there are about two billion waste tires around the country. These tires have been stockpiled for years both legally (landfills) and illegally, with an estimated 279 million to be added to this number in the next few years. These tires are a persistent and widespread hazard that pose a significant challenge. 

Despite recycling efforts and government regulations at the state and national levels, tires are still being disposed of improperly. 

Many individuals assume that they can handle tire disposal on their own, either by stockpiling used tires on their land or by dumping tires in unregulated areas. Some ignorantly stockpile them in vacant lots or knowingly dump them in vacant lots. Whatever the reason, there are long-term ramifications of these actions.


Accumulation of waste tires, which are non-biodegradable polymers due to the presence of fillers, steel cord, organic, and inorganic components, is a major environmental concern. These tires do not decompose and take a great deal of valuable space in landfills. 

When tires pile up in landfills, they can release chemicals into the air, ground, and water that alter the ecosystem. In addition, they have been known to bubble to the surface of landfills as they tend to trap methane gas. This greenhouse gas increases our carbon footprint and can contribute to climate change. 

Most often, bubbling can contaminate local water systems, as it can damage the landfill liners that are meant to control contaminants. The different stabilizers and flame retardants added to tires have also been known to kill advantageous bacteria in the soil. 

If the tire catches on fire, it can release clouds of toxic black smoke into the air. This smoke carries with it many of the chemicals that are used in tire manufacturing. For this reason, tire fires cannot be extinguished with water. When water is sprayed on this type of fire, the chemicals are washed away. They can then seep into groundwater stores and pollute our lakes and ponds.

When tires are left in junkyards for an extended period, they eradicate beneficial soil bacteria. Flora and fauna depend on the nutrients these bacteria produce for nourishment. Without the bacteria, plant and animal species lose habitat and die off. 

Landfill Maintenance

The dumping of tires in landfills has negative effects on the environment. Not only do they take up a great deal of space, but their process of decomposing has created a wide variety of issues that have made their dumping landfills unfeasible. 

Tire disposal is a problem of such immense proportions that there have been laws passed at the state and federal levels to regulate the process. In most states, you can face fines, or even criminal charges, for defying the laws. Presently, 38 states do not allow whole tires to be disposed of in landfills, and with good reason. Tires buried in landfills have a nasty habit of floating up to the top of the pile. Keeping these tires buried requires constant vigilance.

Across the country, there are strict laws keeping individuals from searching for an empty lot to dump their truck tires. The laws also disallow businesses from bringing in truckloads of tires, while forcing the biggest producers of waste tires to find a better way to dispose of them.

Insect Infestation

Tires are the perfect breeding ground for vector-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus. The open center of a tire collects rainwater as it sits, creating small, still water pools. These pools are the perfect place for mosquitos to lay their eggs. Storing tires in this fashion is akin to building a home for these pesky insects. For this reason, there are also regulations governing tire storage by which tire manufacturers and recyclers must abide for the health and safety of employees as well as the public.

Destruction by Fire

Most vehicle tires contain a high fossil fuel content. They are highly flammable, and once they start burning, it isn’t easy to put them out. Even a small tire pile that catches on fire can burn for a long time before running out of fuel. Unfortunately, tires catch on fire more often than we would like. 

The legal stockpiling of tires increases the risk of fires which can burn for months on end, creating further pollution in the air and ground, while the illegal dumping of tires in forests, waterways and empty lots have caused pollution which cannot be regulated.

The most obvious hazard associated with the uncontrolled dumping and accumulation of large amounts of tires outdoors is the potential for large fires which are extremely detrimental to the environment. Once a large pile catches fire, it is very hard, if not impossible, to extinguish. 

Few decades ago, a toxic fire at Wade Dump, a rubber recycling facility in Chester, Pennsylvania, burned out of control for several days and resulted in 43 injured firefighters and criminal charges for the owner of the site. First responders to the fire suffered long-term health consequences and higher than normal cancer rates.

Health Challenges

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, benzene, mutagenic, mercury, styrene-butadiene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and arsenic, among several other chemicals, heavy metals, and carcinogens, have been found in tires.

California Integrated Waste Management Board opines that some of these chemicals including carcinogenic and mutagenic cause cancer and gene mutation.

Drawing from above, there are huge benefits in recycling tires rather than sending them to landfills or disposing of them ourselves.

Please, kindly join our campaign network, lets appeal to households to consider converting their waste tires into beautiful flowerpots

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