Local counties across the country face a number of challenges these days, not the least of which is disposing of waste in an efficient and effective manner while also optimizing the recycling of non-waste materials (i.e., recyclables). The prevalence of rubber recycling has increased exponentially in the past few decades.
Old tires were once a thorn in the side of county government and were often found dumped in bodies of water, in abandoned lots, and along roadsides. Now, through a combination of innovation, technological improvements, and market development efforts, the rubber recycling industry has helped decrease this practice, by processing scrap tires in ways that benefit, rather than detract from, America’s counties.
Today, roughly 110 million tires are recycled annually. That’s one tire for every three people in the U.S. These millions of tires find their way into a variety of products including rubberized asphalt, road embankments, agricultural products, hospital floors, surgical gloves, synthetic turf fields, running tracks, and playground surfaces.
These uses for recycled rubber products provide a sustainable, high quality source of raw material for the manufacture of a range of products across the economy. Using recycled rubber in molded products, for example, creates a substantially smaller (by a factor of up to 20 times) carbon footprint as compared to using virgin plastic resins. As another example, roads made from rubberized asphalt are quieter and more durable than those made with regular asphalt, at half the thickness. By using this material for roadways, communities can prolong the life of this vital infrastructure.
There are also a number of safety benefits to using recycled rubber products. When a child falls onto a playground surface made from rubber, their fall is cushioned such that there is a lower chance of injury. Similarly, when athletes take a dive into a turf field that has crumb rubber infill, they experience more give than would be the case with a grass field. Recycled rubber is even being used to build lower-impact hospital floors for nurses on their feet all day, which reduces the impacts of falls by more than 20 percent and provides greater ergonomic support.
Recycled rubber can provide innovative solutions to a range of challenges, from building stronger infrastructure, to providing vital products, to constructing safer play surfaces. To learn about how some counties have implemented successful tire buy-back programs, check out this recent County News article. Visit www.ISRI.org for more information on rubber recycling or contact Danielle Waterfield at (202) 662-8516.