Every year, around 50 million tyres reach the end of their life in Australia. However, only a small portion of these are recycled with two thirds of them ending up in landfill. Tyres are a challenging source of waste due to their large volume, durability and risks they pose. Tyres are highly combustible, difficult to extinguish and produce harmful chemical toxins and pollutants when burned.
This is a health and environmental issue as well as a needless waste of resources. The average car tyre contains approximately 1.5kg of steel, 0.5kg of textiles and 7 kg of rubber. These components are valuable and can be reused for a variety of practical and creative applications, some of which we explore below.
Rubber that is no longer suitable to drive on is an excellent resource for creating soft surfaces for a variety of purposes, including:
- Sporting fields
- Athletics tracks
- Soft fall surfaces for playgrounds
- Artificial turf
- Soft flooring for industrial and commercial premises
2. ROAD PRODUCTS
Rubber road products made from old tyres have been used in the construction and maintenance of roads in the USA for some time and have begun to recently take place in Australia. The scale of tyre recycling being used for road products is increasing.
These products include asphalt and spray seal. Making these out of recycled rubber provides a range of benefits over other materials, including a more durable and quieter driving surface and improved water drainage.
3. CEMENT MANUFACTURING
Old tyres can be used as an alternative fuel in the manufacturing process of Portland cement, which is a key ingredient in concrete. The process can be as simple as placing whole tyres into cement kilns where the high gas temperatures of 1,000 to 1,2000 °C result in an essentially instantaneous and smokeless combustion.
Tyres can also be repurposed for a variety of uses without doing anything to them. Some popular examples include:
- Tyre swings
- Exercise equipment
- Obstacle courses
- Barriers on motor racing circuits
5. ENTIRE HOMES
Tyres can also be used as construction materials to build an entire home, which is an increasingly popular option for the environmentally conscious people building their own home. These are called earth ships and are built by ramming whole tyres full of earth and covering them with concrete.
This process is also used in civil engineering applications such as subgrade fill and embankments, septic system drains fields, back-fill for walls and bridge abutments and insulation for roads.