After the Rubber Hits the Road: Creative Uses for Old Tires

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Following our whirlwind trip to Detroit and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), my re-purposing segment this week will focus on what to do with all those tires … billions of them that are no longer used on cars and trucks.

Around the world, there are at least 45 tire manufacturers making millions of tires every year. In fact, globally, the auto industry and its consumers use about 1.3 billion tires each year. Mechanics in the United States install 17.5 million of those tires annually.

When all those tires are used up, where do they go?                                                                                                                                                                                                                  One billion discarded tires end up in landfills or recycling centers each year!

Sometimes they are  burned in one big heap. Ever smell a burning heap of tires?  NOT good!  Tire pile fires sometimes smolder for weeks at a time. All that burning rubber releases extremely toxic pollutants into the air, which can lead to serious respiratory and other health problems for people living nearby and even those miles away. Runoff water used to douse tire fires is full of toxins and we all know how all that runoff contaminates our water supply!

Sadly, many of us have seen old tires dumped along riverbanks, in a woods, along roadways or in places they shouldn’t be. That too is NOT good as discarded tires are perfect breeding grounds for rats, mice, mosquitoes and other critters that like to cozy up inside. Many of those varmints carry diseases, including West Nile virus, hanta virus, encephalitis, dengue fever.

Some are creatively repurposed and up-cycled for DIY projects, while others are projects being done on a much grander scale.

What to do with all those tires? Of course Green Divas know there are some good ideas for re-purposing all that rubber. The first thing which comes to mind is to use them, intact around the house, garden and yard. Tire swings, tires stacked and painted with bright colors make perfect planters, tires or their tire rims have been fashioned into elegant ottomans, etc.

There are many sites offering some pretty nifty ideas for up-cycling old tires, many of which are definitely DIY worthy! I searched many, many website uncovering one great idea after another. Here’s one of my favorite uses for tires around the garden.

Planters full of beautiful, colorful flowers hung on the side of a shed, your deck, the house or barn.















Then there’s furniture … all types!  Here’s a clever idea for a coffee table or an end table with a removable top where inside you can store all sorts of stuff; things like DVDs, blankets, gaming essentials — all hidden out of sight! Dog NOT included.

And how’s this for elegant?! An old tire, a couple of pieces of plywood cut into rounds which fit on and under the tire to cover the hole and 3 or 4 table legs which can be screwed or bolted onto the bottom piece of plywood, some nice heavy natural rope and glue. Designs are limited only by your imagination. This is one of my favorites.  Just think, you can even paint it any color to match your decor.

Let’s not forget the ubiquitous tire swing. Old tires have been a mainstay in backyards everywhere. Admit it. When you see a tire swing, you are tempted to slide right in and give it a whirl! This is beyond DYI. The trickiest part – and undeniably part of the fun – will be trying to throw the rope up and over a sturdy branch.

With just a little more work, 3 or 4 eye bolts and nuts, a tire can be fashioned into a flat swing where several little ones can climb aboard together. Now that’s a lot of fun!

But wait, there’s more!  With all those old tires out there, I don’t think anyone will be surprised how many great re-purposing & up-cycling ideas creative minds have been able to come up with!

Old Tires as Eco-Fashion Statements - Green Diva Meg carries a nifty little bag, by English Retreads – the perfect size for the essentials when traveling. It too is made from re-purposed tires and beautifully embellished with silver-colored buttons and clasps. GD Meg had this coolie-oh bag with her in Detroit. I’m thinking there’s just not enough room in there for all the essentials needed for travel these days — passport, wallet, make-up, glasses, sunglasses, business cards — I could go on and just when I thought she couldn’t fit anything more into her pouch, there she is pulling out a healthy nut & fruit bar!

Here’s Green Diva Meg doing her best to look like a Price is Right model and clearly making it look easy.

And then there’s Earthship Biotecture Wow … talk about thinking BIG when it comes to re-purposing tires.

These folks decided that, among other things, building homes with old tires is a good idea. In fact, re-purposed tires have been used to build sustainable structures all around the world in Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States. Steel belted tires are packed with dirt and serve as foundations and structural walls for buildings. It’s incredible and these walls and foundations are virtually indestructible!

Below is a fun video showing how EarthShip designs incorporate old tires into the main structure of their buildings.

When you’re ready to change those worn out tires on your car or truck, remember old and worn doesn’t mean useless!

About the author / 

Green Diva Mizar'

Green Diva Mizar is a former co-host of the GD show. GD Mizar is also dedicated to providing safe, clean water to all through her company Pur2o Water Filtration & Purification.

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    Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green January 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm -  Reply

    Sadly tires are SUPER toxic so please don’t grow food in them and if kids are touching them be sure they wash their hands very well after.

    And tires rarely go to recycling centers when they are “recycled” they go to town’s like mine and are burned in plants like the cement plant in my town. People like me are then forced to breath the toxics they put into the air, causing increased cancer rates, asthma, and so many other health issues.

    jorge January 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm -  Reply

    Really amazing. Fantastic…
    We can work for a better and “green” world.

    Anna@Green Talk January 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm -  Reply

    You know I love the way they incorporate tires into green building. Some even use them as the walls and pour concrete in the holes. I also wouldn’t recommend growing food in tires.

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