America’s Tire Mountains: 90% are gone, thanks to recycling programs

From the Mother Nature Network:

Once we had 2 billion tires scattered around the U.S. landscape, but now 90 percent of the piles are gone. Ground rubber from tires is becoming roadways, playground equipment and auto floor mats.

Tires. We don’t think about them all that much unless a) we have a flat; b) we have to buy new ones; or c) the summer tires just aren’t cutting it in the winter, or vice versa. But tires are a big deal in the environment, because we produce — and discard — so many of them. In 2009, the most recent year available, we generated 296 million scrap tires, with passenger cars accounting for 189 million of them.
The good news is that we’re “repurposing” 80 percent of our scrap tires today. Remember the famous tire mountains? Well, they’re mostly gone now. According to Michael Blumenthal, vice president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association, by 1990 some 48 states had scrap tire laws of some kind (after Minnesota became the first to pass a law in 1985). Consider the scope of the problem they were dealing with — an estimated 2 to 3 billion tires that were in stockpiles back then, and only 11 percent of tires were going to end-use markets. Today, 90 percent of the piles have been “abated,” says Blumenthal.