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While tires account for less than 2% of total municipal solid waste, nearly 5 million tons of tires were generated in 2019. So, are tires hazardous waste?

The answer is yes. Tires are a significant environmental hazard on multiple levels. Their chemical constitution contributes to a portion of the danger. Toxins generated by tire decomposition, incineration, or unintentional fires can contaminate water, air, and land.

Tires generate a significant amount of solid waste, which is a big concern. In terms of soil, water, and air pollution, used tires have a significant detrimental influence on the environment. Tires are made of natural rubber and plastic, so it's easy to overlook how much pollution they cause in our oceans.

Did you know that by recycling tires, you may be able to reduce their negative impact on the ecosystem? Having extensive experience in the tire industry, we will explain how tires affect the environment and how we can prevent their hazardous effects.

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Are Tires Hazardous Waste? - How Tires Affect the Environment

Tire disposal has a substantial negative influence on the environment. Like anything else that you can repurpose, old tires have no place in a landfill. They take up space that could be better used to store waste that has nowhere else to go. The goal is to decrease waste production, although this isn't always possible. Tires for cars and trucks are a vital and valuable commodity worldwide, but they are also reusable and recyclable. Here's what happens to the environment when tires aren't properly disposed of.

Waste from Landfills

While 42 states have some sort of tire disposal regulation, eight states have no restrictions on what you can do with your old tires. According to EHS Daily, only around 35% of tire rubber is recycled.

Many municipalities have already made it illegal to dump any kind of tire, whole or shredded, in landfills - only 11 states prohibit all tire trash from being disposed of in landfills, resulting in millions of tons of tire waste being dumped in already overburdened landfills. As a result, numerous states around the country are attempting to address this issue.

However, tires have become smaller and more durable as a result of technological advancements, resulting in more tires being recycled and fewer ending up in landfills. This means that you may have compelling legal reasons for recycling tires in addition to strong environmental and health concerns.

Scrap tires account for up to a significant portion of garbage in these dumps. This is a problem that is affecting several states across the country. So, in addition to environmental and health grounds, there may now be legal reasons to recycle tires.

Release of Toxins

Tires are classified as municipal solid garbage rather than toxic waste by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, tires that are discarded rather than recycled can pose major environmental issues. The problems come when the chemicals they contain are discharged into the environment, such as when tires are broken down and release hazardous waste. Tires contain lubricants that pollute the soil and heavy metals like lead, which can remain in the environment and build up over time.

Fire Danger

Another big issue with abandoned tires is the increased risk of fire. Tires become a source of fuel when heated. In fact, approximately half of all recycled scrap tires are used to generate energy. Tire fires can be more difficult to manage and extinguish than other types of fires. Furthermore, the smoke contains hazardous compounds and particle matter that can negatively affect humans, such as by exacerbating respiratory diseases.

Endangered Species and Pests

Scrap tires are also a pest problem. Water may collect in these tires, making them a breeding habitat for mosquitoes and other pests. Even rodents may live in old tires. As a result, it's best to recycle used tires to avoid any potential health risks.

Discarded tires provide a different type of environmental threat that isn't often as visible as garbage generation. Tires can accumulate water and serve as a breeding place for mosquitoes and other pests.

As a result, the risk of vector-borne diseases like encephalitis may increase. Rodents may also make their homes in tires. Therefore, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests removing abandoned tires from your property as a result of the potential risk of endangered species and growing pests.


As old tires degrade, chemicals and heavy metals leak into the environment. This is referred to as leaching. In nature, a handful of these compounds have been found to be mutagenic and carcinogenic. Soil pollution is another risk posed by leaching.

The toxic chemicals discharged into the atmosphere can readily contaminate the soil around worn tires. Even groundwater is susceptible to contamination. Furthermore, if these chemicals pollute any water in the soil, the poisoned water may come into contact with animals and humans, putting their lives in jeopardy.

Heightened Fire Danger

 An increased fire risk is one of the major uncertainties in the case of discarded tires. Almost half of the discarded tires recycled are utilized to make fuel. On the other hand, Tire fires may be more challenging to put out and deal with.


Some landfills have attempted to dispose of old tires by burning them openly or under regulated conditions. These processes are not only risky, but they also discharge poisonous substances into the air.

When tires are heated, they become an excellent fuel source. As a result, there have been numerous unintentional combustions in the areas where they are burned. These combustion sites endanger not only the environment but also the workers' health and safety.

Tires are still a fire hazard even if they aren't transferred to tire-burning disposal sites. Tire fires are more difficult to control and extinguish than other types of fires. Tires that are discarded rather than recycled risk combusting, releasing toxins into the air, and causing a devastating fire.

Recycling Tires

Reduce the number of tires that end up in landfills by recycling them into rubber pavers, which may be used to enhance outdoor spaces and create patios, pathways, and other areas that would normally require hardscape materials like concrete or brick.

Gardeners looking for a lighter-weight paving material than typical concrete and brick pavers might consider recycled rubber pavers. Rubber pavers, like rubber mulch, are available in a wide range of colors. However, as with any other material, there are a few advantages and disadvantages associated with recycled rubber pavers.

In addition, rubber mulch made from recycled tires can be utilized in gardens. It has a lot of advantages. For example, it does not drift away in rainstorms, does not rot like traditional wood mulch, and maintains its beauty over time. You won't have to worry about termites or other wood-boring bugs, either.

There are chances that you can use shredded tires instead of gravel almost wherever that gravel is used. Examples include roadway sub-layers, highway embankment backfill, and aggregate for drainage ditches.

Tire chips as a gravel alternative have a number of advantages. Tire chips, for example, can prevent frost penetration when applied under roads in cold climates. Plus, tire shreds are put under light rail tracks near businesses and homes to reduce noise reduction and tremors from trains passing by.

Tire shreds can be utilized as a landfill liner as well as a cover. It can be used as a thermal insulator between direct and indirect landfill liners to lower temperatures. They can also be used as a landfill landscaping material that is both cost-effective and efficient.

Rubberized asphalt vehicle mudguards, anti-fatigue mats, and playground flooring can all benefit from crumb rubber or finely powdered rubber made from scrap tires.

Today, tire-derived fuels are also in high demand. Scrap tires can be utilized as a carbon source in steel mills, replacing coal or coke throughout the manufacturing process. You can also use shredded tires to create barriers to reduce collisions, regulate erosion and rainwater runoff, and protect wetlands from wave action.


Tire recycling can help keep dangerous chemicals out of the environment, water, and air. It can prevent tires from becoming breeding grounds for disease-carrying pests and from igniting blazing flames. Make sure your old tires are recycled when you're ready to get rid of them.

If you get your tires replaced, inquire as to what the mechanic intends to do with the old ones. Drive them to a recycling site yourself if they aren't going to recycle them.

Tires, fortunately, are completely recyclable. The high-quality steel and rubber may be easily reincorporated into the production process with little or no modification to the existing operations. Such goods made from recycled tires have outperformed traditional materials. Reducing waste tires has a wide range of global ramifications, including greater socioeconomic justice, less landfill, reduced carbon impact, and a safer society.

Are Tires Hazardous Waste?

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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