More than 270 million tires are discarded every year and that number continues to grow. The good news is that 64 percent of those tires are now being reused as flooring, fuel, automobile parts, and even playground surfaces. Others are retreaded to sell again overseas and of course some end up in landfills.
The largest market for old tires is as an alternative fuel source. As much as two-thirds of all recycled tires end up powering manufacturing and industrial plants. Last year, 17 million tires were processed into 2-inch fuel chips by GreenMan Technologies of Lynnfield, MA. Each tire contains the equivalent of two and a half gallons of fuel oil. The company reported a net income of $4.7 million in 1999 with higher expectations for this year.
In Lancaster, PA, Dodge-Regupol Inc. employs 150 people who turn 2 million tires into attractive, high-end flooring and automobile parts. Its largest customer is General Motors, which uses 5.8 million pounds of recycled rubber annually in parts such as brake pedal pads and radiator baffles.
The future for the recycled tires looks bright and according to the president of GreenMan Technologies, Bob Davis, the industry is still in its infancy.