Whoever set fire to the huge Heyope old car tyre dump near Knighton, Powys, may not have known that their idea would enter the record books. From 1989 to 2004, yes, for fifteen years, the tens of millions of tyres at the dump smouldered away steadily. They were packed too tightly underground for firefighters to extinguish and as a result, released all kinds of toxic nasties into the atmosphere, the local waterways and the soil.
Perhaps one silver lining is that due to events like the Heyope tyre fire, the dangerous tyre dumps are now illegal. In their place, a network of licenced companies have been set up to recycle tyres. Creating useful products, such as Astroturf pitches, playground surfaces, industrial flooring, running tracks and carpet underlay. Sadly, the majority of waste tyres still end up as fuel for combustion kilns. Creating flood defences and landfills as part of their engineering. So what can you do with your old car tyres?
Disposing old car tyres
Figuring out what to do with the forty million waste tyres we generate each year in the UK is still a massive headache. Yet eco-friendly companies around the world are facing the problem head-on. If you’re looking for some big thinking and inspiration then take a look at how countries from around the world are finding resolution:
- PYReco plan to set up a state-of-the-art tyre reprocessing plant in Redcar to extract oil, gas, carbon black and steel from waste tyres. Though raising the £85m investment has proved challenging so far.
- The US has been using waste tyre material in road resurfacing since the 60s. Yet here in the UK we only began trials back in 2013. The test rubber road in Dundee was found to be far quieter than standard British road surfaces, cutting traffic noise by 25%.
- A green start-up company in Australia announced recently that they’ve discovered an emission-free way to extract bio-diesel from waste tyres.
What can we do at home to help?
Every day, 100,000 tyres are taken off cars – they have to go somewhere! And as much as we like to think so, there isn’t one solution that can fulfil that demand. We need a combination of big thinking projects and smaller ideas at home. Preserving the life of your tyres is a good start – the longer they last, the less tyre waste is produced. Here’s how you can preserve your tyre lifespan:
- Drive carefully, avoid harsh braking and check your tyre pressure regularly to prolong the life of your tyres.
- Remember the harder, faster and heavier the load of the car, the quicker your tyres will wear. If you have a lot of junk in the back of your car, consider removing it to lighten the pressure.
- Moving home? Don’t make excessive trips in your car, save your tyres and fuel by hiring a man with a van instead. For more information, go to their website
- When replacing your car tyres, opt for the best quality you can afford as these will last longer than cheap, poorly made versions.
- When replacing your truck, van or caravan tyres, consider quality ‘retreads’ from companies such as Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear and Michelin instead of brand new budget tyres.
Upcycling old car tyres
Of course, as with anything, prevention is our favourite method of reducing waste. But ultimately, your old car tyres are going to need replacing. So what can you do with the old ones? Well, we suggest upcycling them into a fun project – just make sure you wash them first!
DIY yourself a tyre planter for the garden using this tutorial. Please note, we recommend not using these for edible plants, just to be on the safe side.
Kids love a chain tyre swing and this tutorial demonstrates how to make this sturdy horizontal version safely and cheaply.
Car tyres are one of the most difficult items of waste to reduce, reuse or even recycle. So don’t worry if it takes you a while to get to grips with this one. Just do what you can when you can and you’ll be doing your part. You could even go a step further to try and prevent any illegal old car tyre waste from building up in your local area by reporting tyre dumping.
By reporting any tyre dumping to the local council, especially if a large number appear overnight in a rural location, you cna help protect the environment. Whilst the tyres could be above board and held under licence, plenty of dangerous tyre dumps are still regularly concealed from the authorities so be cautious about where yours end up.