Rolling in the Sunshine State
I occasionally get curious about fairly odd topics. This morning, I decided I needed to know how many vehicles I passed on the way to work. After half a mile and 178 vehicles, my curiosity shifted to tires. How many tires are rolling across Florida right now? What happens to all those gazillion tires when they go flat or bald?
Turns out, DEP keeps track of that sort of thing. An estimated 15,250,000 automobile, light truck, and smaller tires plus 850,000 medium truck and larger tires were removed from vehicles in Florida in 2008, according to the “Waste Tires in Florida, State of the State” report.
Sixteen million tires take up a lot of landfill space. Stockpiling isn’t particularly helpful – retired tires, especially piles and piles of them, provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes that transmit nasty diseases such as West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis. We’ve learned that dumping them into the ocean as a pseudo reef is a bad idea. And we for sure don’t need that many tire swings. So what do we do with the tires? DEP keeps track of that, too.
• Waste-to-energy facilities used 54 percent of our old tires to enhance combustion temperature control and generate electricity.
• Nearly 600,000 tires were shredded and used instead of soil and aggregate in projects such as landfill drainage layers, methane gas collection systems and septic system drainage trenches.
• Crumb rubber made of tires from the Polk City Waste Tire Site was used to produce rubber modified asphalt (RMA) for paving the Withlacoochee and Van Fleet state trails in 1995, the first use of RMA for a trail in the U.S. (BTW, the Withlacoochee State Trail was recently designated a National Recreation Trail.)
• Recycled tires are used as fuel in cement kilns and pulp and paper factories.
• Tire shreds can be used to stabilize soil when constructing road embankments.
• Ground rubber is used in rubberized asphalt to pave playgrounds, running tracks and roads.
In small quantities, old tires can also be used as crash barriers around race tracks and boat bumpers at marinas. If you just need to dispose of a tire or two, check with a local tire center or contact your city or county waste management department.
In any case, 18-wheeler or 4-wheeler size, tires are on our list of things to count. DEP’s Waste Tire Management Program addresses how waste tires should be moved, stored, processed, used or disposed. Staff assist in cleaning up illegal tire piles and work with potential buyers to develop markets for waste tires. In addition, DEP distributes grants to counties to help manage waste tires. In Florida, that’s the way we roll with tires.
2010 numbers provided by Daniel M. Kuncicky, Ph.D., Environmental Manager, Solid Waste Section, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Waste Tire Management Program
The waste tires report online
Withlacoochee State Trail
General James A. Van Fleet State Trail