Are Old Tires Safe To Recycle?

January 30, 2019 | News

Whenever the topic of tire recycling comes up, one common question is whether or not they are actually safe to recycle. And it’s a great question. After all, recycled and repurposed tires are used in children’s playgrounds and in livestock feeding troughs, both uses that have a potential to impact human health somewhere along the line.

One major concern is that tires off-gas a class of chemicals called ‘volatile organic compounds’ (VOCs), a few of which have been linked to cancer.  Another concern is chemical leaching into water sources. Here, we’ll address each of the two common concerns related to recycled tires.


Volatile Organic Compounds

Many newly-manufactured items and materials composed of plastic and rubber typically give off various VOC gases. New cars and memory foam, for instance, have distinct smells related to off-gassing. The popular “new book smell” is also due to the presence of VOCs.

While there has been a risk shown to those who work in tire factories and other rubber-processing plants, no conclusive link has been found to any risk with consumers.  In recent studies, only very low emission levels of VOCs have been found, comparable to the level you may find in many homes today.

To the point, recycled tires are quite safe as far as VOCs are concerned. A lot of it has to do with the fact that old tires have normally off-gassed the majority of their VOCs by the time they’ve been sent in for recycling.


Chemical leaching

It’s no secret some chemicals used to make tires are quite toxic when we’re exposed to them in high amounts, so it’s natural that we’re concerned about the potential dangers of using recycled tire products for playgrounds and as a substitute for wood mulch. However, decades of testing have failed to come up with any link with old tires and toxicity in the soil. If you grow veggies in repurposed tire planters and beds, you can definitely consume your veggies with confidence, as old tires are chemically quite stable.

As a matter of fact, it took a while for tire recycling to take off in the 1980s precisely because of concerns about chemicals leaching into the environment. Studies of tire leachates when tires are exposed to extremely corrosive seawater (when used as breakwaters or artificial reefs) have also demonstrated the safety of tires to marine life, even in cases where tires have been exposed to the ocean for decades.


When do the chemicals become a problem?

Old tires and products made from them are by themselves are incredibly stable and durable. They can last for decades without degrading to any significant degree. Even when old tires are subjected to harsh sunlight and seawater they will stay inert and safe.

However, burning tires or improperly processing them does have the potential to cause serious harm to both you and the environment. Old tires can be made safer by sending them to a professional recycler, like Western Tire Recyclers.

While recycling whole tires for use in an outdoor playground or as a swing is perfectly alright, you shouldn’t burn them or attempt to create your own tire chips, as there are real safety issues with doing so that a professional recycler would be better able to deal with.  Otherwise, feel free to repurpose old tires in any way you see fit. In any case, they present much more of a problem when they are left to pile up in landfills.


Please Leave a Comment