In Australia in 2009-10, the equivalent of 48 million tyres reached end-of-life and the pile is growing.
It's an unfortunate fact that the majority of used tyres in Australia end up chucked into landfill or worse still, exported, stockpiled, or illegally dumped. As well as being unsightly, poorly disposed of tyres cause a wide range of environmental problems both in Australia and overseas. Even a small number of dumped tyres can create the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. In Australia the mosquitoes transmit diseases such as Dengue Fever and the Ross River Virus, and overseas, they transmit malaria.
Tyres are also flammable and when set alight in uncontrolled circumstances (like illegal dumping sites) burn for long periods and emit dangerous chemicals and particle pollution into the atmosphere. Many tyres make their way from Australia to developing countries where they are burnt in unregulated factories and power stations.
Finally, landfilling or dumping represents a significant waste of resources. Each passenger car tyre contains approximately 1.5kg of steel, 0.5kg of textiles and 7kg of rubber. It just doesn't make sense to throw those resources away.
Reducing the waste and damage caused by used tyres is as simple as making sure they are recycled at the end of their life. This is where Planet Ark's RecyclingNearYou page sponsor Kmart Tyre and Auto Service comes in. When a customer buys new tyres their old ones are recycled free of charge.
About 870,000 tyres are recycled by Kmart Tyre and Auto Service each year. Based on the average car tyre weighing 9kg this represents 7,830 tonnes of material diverted from landfill or other damaging disposal methods.
The tyres are sent to TyreCycle, Australia's largest tyre recycler. They under go a range of processes including shredding, metal removal and grinding into powders, chips or granules.
The reclaimed rubber is used for a wide and growing variety of uses including athletic tracks, fuel for energy recovery, playground and non-slip surfaces, break pads, building insulation, road surfaces and of course, new tyres.
Check out RecyclingNearYou's Tyre pages for more information about Kmart Tyre and Auto Service's free recycling, or look for other options in your area.
Businesses are responsible for the waste that contractors take off their property. So if your business has any quantity of used tyres removed it's important that you know the transporter and/or recycler are doing the right thing with them. Planet Ark's Choose the Right Recycler Checklist and Factsheet outlines the key questions you should ask a recycler before they remove items, especially commonly dumped items like tyres, from your site.
More great news - the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a final decision to authorise a national Tyre Stewardship Scheme for five years!