While old tires may seem like worthless junk, they can be put to myriad uses. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are at least 110 products that are currently made of material derived from used tires.
One use for old tires is to put them back on the road -- as part of the road. About 12 million scrap tires a year are made into rubberized asphalt, which is used to resurface federal interstates and highways in many states. Studies show that it has a lower life-cycle cost than conventional pavement. In northern Virginia, road builders also have combined shredded tire rubber with cement to form “whisper walls” that deflect sound waves from traffic and reduce the noise level, sparing local residents’ ears [source: EPA].
Another transportation-related use for old tires is highly-durable, rubber-encased railroad ties. Each tie includes about 80 pounds of ground-up scrap tires and plastic from discarded bottles, held together with a special binder or glue around a steel beam. The resulting product is about twice as strong as a wooden tie, and will last as long as 90 years, about three times what a wooden tie would last [source: EPA].
Recycled tires are also used to create eco-friendly, low maintenance decks for homes. Ground-up tire rubber is combined with polyethylene resins to make molded boards that can withstand extreme heat and cold, sun and insect damage better than natural wood. Rubber composite decks last about 25 years and require little maintenance, except for an occasional hosing [source: Luxury Housing Trends].
Another increasingly popular use for recycled tire rubber is for running tracks, basketball courts and outdoor playground surfaces. These surfaces not only are durable but they're cushiony enough to keep children from hurting themselves when they fall. At West Lake Park in Hollywood, Fla., kids play in a replica pirate ship that sits atop a simulated lagoon, complete with swimming manatees and sea turtles, fabricated from 8,000 scrap tires [source: Broward County, FL].