How to Legally Dispose of Old Tires

How to Legally Dispose of Old Tires
Photo: Ellica, Shutterstock

Thanks to regularly scheduled garbage pickup, we’ve gotten used to the idea that if we want to throw something out, we can just pop it in trash bag or can, put it out on the curb, and on a designated day of the week, sanitation workers or waste disposal companies whisk it away.

But as it turns out, there are certain rules that cities and private companies have in place dictating what they will and won’t accept. In fact, in many states, it’s illegal to dispose of particular items via your regular trash collection — including old tires. Here’s how to get rid of them legally.

Why can’t you throw old tires away in the trash?

At this point, we should all try to reduce the amount of waste we produce that ends up in landfills, but old tires are a special case. First, the shape of tires means that they hold a lot of air, which not only takes up more space than other items their size, but also causes them to migrate to the surface of a landfill.

Once they’re there, tires collect rainwater, which becomes standing water, which attracts rodents and mosquitoes. Old tires in landfills are also a fire risk because they trap methane emissions. And while any fires are bad news, tire fires are notoriously difficult to put out.

Another major concern is that tires contain steel belts that can pierce through landfill liners, contaminating the ground beneath them. Plus, they aren’t biodegradable — meaning they’ll likely be around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years before decomposing.

How to legally dispose of old tires

Fortunately, there are legal ways to get rid of old tires. Here are a few to consider:

Leave it to the professionals

If you bring your vehicle to a shop to get new tires, ask about their disposal options. Sometimes there’s a separate disposal fee for them to get rid of your old tires, or it could be built into the cost of the tire change.

You may also want to ask what they do with the old tires — for instance, whether they recycle them, or bring them to a junkyard. If they’re headed for the junkyard, you can always recycle them yourself.

Recycle old tires

Check your city or state government’s website to learn about your local tire recycling policies, as well as where to find recycling centres that accept tires. You can also use this online tool to locate tire recycling centres in your area.

Upcycle or repurpose old tires

There are many ways to repurpose old tires that don’t involve making a tire swing (although that’s absolutely an option, too). Some popular projects include using old tires as planters, mini-sandboxes, raised garden beds, and to make end tables or ottomans.

No matter how you repurpose your old tires, be sure to thoroughly clean them first with a pressure washer (you can make one using your regular garden hose). If that doesn’t take care of the grease and grime, give them a scrub using a nontoxic degreaser (like this DIY version).

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