Every year millions of car tyres wear out. When one considers the number of cars on our roads and you times that number by four – just think of the number of tyres that we are chucking out every year! Yes some are retreaded, and their lives extended, and some are recycled and turned into other products. Many however end up as rubbish – they exist in our landfills, where they take an extremely long time to degrade and slowly leach toxic chemicals that pollute the environment.
To create a new tyre requires 23 litres of crude oil equivalent for raw materials and 9l for process energy compared with 7l and 2l respectively for the retreading of tyres. The car tyres on most of our vehicles can usually only be retreaded once, but tyres on big vehicles such as trucks can be retreaded up to six times, and by retreading, you decrease the number of tyres ending up in the landfill.
Many of the tyres that are sent for recycling are chipped and used in other applications, from shoes, sandals, buckets, motor vehicle parts, doormats, to computer mouse pads.
Powerplants exist overseas where tyres are incinerated for their stored energy as tyres contain more embodied energy than coal (if you’ve ever tried to put out burning rubber, you’ll know that it is virtually impossible). Tyres are also burnt in impoverished areas to obtain their metal mesh content, a dangerous practice causing lots of smog and pollution in the process.
Whilst you cannot always be sure where your tyres from your car will land up, there are some nifty things that you can do at home with those old tyres. They are a free resource that you can obtain at your local Speedy, HiQ, Superquick or other tyre fitment centre, or from the contractor who collects these tyres.
Here are some suggestions:
Edge / border marker
Tyres can be half buried (or cut in half, harder work and don’t try it on a steelbelt!) in the ground and used as edging to line a drive way, garden bed or children’s playground. They can be painted to add some colour to your garden.
Retaining walls, raised beds
Tyres are a great building material. Use them to build a retaining wall especially on a slope, then you can plant plants in the holes and create a beautiful terraced garden. Or cluster stacks of tyres together to create a raised bed.
Halved tyres can make feeding trays for poultry and ducks and a used tyre can make a very stable surround for a pets water bowl so that they do not knock it over, especially if you have a boisterous dog who often tips their water bowl over!
They make great nesting box for chickens and ducks, just fill the middle with lots of straw.
Compost bin or wormery
Use them to build a composter or wormery – just take three or four tyres and stack them together to create a simple composter. The warm environment created by the car tyres will make short work of composting kitchen waste and grass clipping. Access the compost by removing one tyre at a time from the top.
You can use tyres as the outer wall of a small pond. All you need to do is cut out one side of the tyre so that you are left with a nice open circle that can form the sturdy walls of your pond. Then line the pod with heavy duty plastic and weigh the edges down with some rocks. Fill with water and some water plants to create a little garden pond.
Many people have suggested using old tyres to grow potatoes, adding another tyre and more soil as the potato grows. You can build a tower 3 or 4 tiers high this way. Some claim this is a great way to grow potatoes. However others disagree, as there have been concerns raised about the used tyres leeching cadmium (a heavy metal) into your soil, and your plants especially root vegetables like potatoes take up this chemical. The jury is still out as to if the level of cadmium is high enough to be of concern. My advice however is use the tyres to create artistic flower beds and pots, but rather grow veggies that you are going to be eating in the ground.
If you live in a cold climate and want to get a start on the winter seedlings, a tyre wall cut out and covered in some clear heavy duty plastic makes an effective coldframe for young seedlings.
As a young child I had a tyre sand-pit made out of a huge cut out tractor tyre, and filled with beach sand – this is truly a great way to give young kids endless hours of digging fun. There are many ways that tyres can be used in children’s jungle gyms.
Cut out the sides and turn the old tyre into a great children’s swing.
Water tank base
Stack three or four tyres on top of each other, fill with rubble and sand and you have a base for a 220 litre barrel that can be used as a rainwater butt (position beneath downpipe) and a water tank for irrigating your garden.
Earth-house building brick
For those feeling ambitious, use them as a building material and build an earthship house!
Source: Urban Sprout
This is a great example of reusing instead of recycling. Recycling is usually still much better than simply dumping something but the energy costs of recycling can sometimes outweigh the environmental benefits. Used tyres can be used to make eco-friendly houses that are very cost-effective. The water and energy savings of reusing items such as tires are considerable, in an age where we should be thinking about how we are contributing to the water and energy crisis.
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