Tire Recycling Centers
If you can’t get a retailer to take your tires, your local county or municipal government should be able to help you out. Some have special tire pickup days when you can leave your tires out by the curb, while others, like Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington, D.C., have waste stations that will accept tires for recycling [source: Montgomery County, MD]. You usually can get information on this by checking your local government Web site.
If you’ve accumulated a bunch of old tires on your property over the years, we bet your neighbors would love for you to contact a tire recycling company and have them haul all that wasted rubber away. For example, in New Jersey the Scrap Tire Recycling Co’s Web site says it will pick up any size load of car tires. (They’ll collect airplane tires, too, if you have any of those.) The company then markets the scrap tires to other firms that repurpose the rubber into various products [source: Recyclemytires.com].
Whether you turn in your old tires at a recycling center or leave them with a tire retailer, they'll probably end up at a commercial reprocessing plant. There, the scrap tires will be treated with chemicals to break them down into a material that can be reused. Some plants use a process called devulcanization, which breaks down and removes the sulfur that originally was added to the rubber to make it harden. The result is a material called reclaim rubber, which is cheaper than virgin rubber, although it sometimes lacks the tensile strength. The reclaim rubber is then put through a mechanical grinder. Sometimes it’s first frozen by exposing it to liquid nitrogen, which makes the reclaim rubber brittle so it can be more easily ground into a fine powder [source: Klingensmith].