Risks of Burning Tires and Tire Recycling Alternatives

By:     Kieran Donnelly

Burning tires is generally deemed an unsustainable and somewhat hazardous method for disposing of waste tires. It carries many environmental threats and poses various risks to public health, however, there are some cases in which burning tires can help manage this type of waste.

In this article, we’ll discuss the risks associated with burning tires and what alternatives can be sought for managing the massive 1.5 billion waste tires that are generated annually around the world.

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Tire recycling machinery

As a leading manufacturer of tire recycling machinery, Gradeall is committed to pursuing a more sustainable future in tire disposal. We design innovative machinery that streamlines this process with enhanced productivity and efficiency.

Why is burning tires bad?

Burning tires can have several adverse effects on human health and the surrounding environment. The dangers of burning tires are listed below.

Air pollution

Burning tires release a significant amount of toxic pollutants into the air. These pollutants include sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM), including fine particles known as PM2.5.

These pollutants can contribute to heavy smog formation, respiratory issues and other negative health effects in nearby communities.

Health risks

The emissions from burning tires contain a range of harmful substances, including heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, and mercury), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, and furans.

These pollutants are known to be carcinogenic and can have adverse effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. Prolonged exposure to the emissions from tire burning can increase the risk of respiratory diseases, including asthma, bronchitis, and even lung cancer.

Soil and water contamination

The ash generated from burning tires can contain toxic substances that can contaminate nearby soil and water bodies. When tire ash is deposited onto the ground or carried away by rainwater, it can leach pollutants into the soil and water, potentially affecting ecosystems and posing risks to human health through the food chain and drinking water sources.

Fire hazard

Burning tires can also lead to intense and difficult-to-control tire fires. These fires produce a thick smoke that makes firefighting efforts very challenging. Some tire fires have burned for up to 15 years and in all that time, they constantly spread pollutants and hazardous materials.

Burning tires smell

The smell of burning tires is also quite unpleasant. This can upset the surrounding community, decrease property value and damage the reputation of the surrounding area, which also decreases tourism prospects.

Environmental impact

The release of pollutants from tire burning also contributes to environmental degradation and can cause harm to ecosystems. This environmental impact may:

  • Damage plant life.
  • Affect aquatic organisms.
  • Damage surrounding habitats.
  • Disrupt the balance of ecosystems.

The pollutants are harmful to all living organisms within close proximity to the burning tires.

Burning tires for energy

The only time that burning tires is generally permitted is when it is used as an alternative fuel source. Tire-derived fuel (TDF) is often used in industrial processes such as cement kilns, pulp and paper mills, and power plants.

TDF is produced by shredding or grinding waste tires into smaller pieces, typically chips or crumb rubber. They have a high energy content due to the hydrocarbon-rich nature of the rubber, making them suitable for use as a fuel source, with significant heat energy when burned.

Burning tires in this way is an alternative to using non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal and oil. However, it does carry environmental considerations in that the combustion of TDF releases toxic emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter.

These emissions can cause negative effects on human health and contribute to air pollution and climate change and if it is not properly managed.

Is burning tires illegal?

Burning tires is typically a banned and illegal practice for managing this type of waste, due to the significant environmental effects and associated health risks. It is generally discouraged and heavily regulated in many jurisdictions.

Alternatives to burning tires

At Gradeall, we have manufactured an impressive fleet of tire recycling machinery that helps prepare waste tires for alternative recycling methods. Our selection of tire balers, shredders and sidewall cutters also reduces the bulky volume of waste tires, which contributes to reduced fuel consumption and transportation costs.

It is essential to utilize proper waste management methods such as tire recycling and repurposing, in order to reduce the need for burning tires as a method for disposing of them.

There are many innovative and creative alternatives to burning tires, check them out below:

Silage covers

A sidewall cutter can remove the sidewalls from tires and leave behind a weighted rubber material which can then be repurposed as silage covers in agriculture practices. It also makes the left over tire material much easier to manage, store and transport.

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Playground surfaces

Waste tires can be turned into a rubber crumb which is then used in the production of playground surfaces and sports pitches. The rubber material also provides impact absorption which makes it a great material for this purpose. 


When tires are baled together, they can also be used for embankments due to their lightweight, durable and water-resistant properties. There are many other uses for waste tires in civil engineering projects.


Repurposed waste tires

Waste tires can also be repurposed for a variety of uses, including;

  • Plant potters
  • Tire furniture
  • Sporting equipment
  • Tire swings

This keeps the original integrity of the tire intact, whilst repurposing it for another use, increasing its longevity and keeping it out of tire-burning facilities.

Avoid burning tires with responsible waste management solutions

At Gradeall, we aim to provide innovative machinery that makes it more convenient for pursuing tire recycling initiatives. Our goal is to contribute towards a more sustainable future and circular economy in global tire disposal practices.

If you would like to know more about how the Gradeall range of recycling machinery can enhance your operation, get in touch with the Gradeall team and we would be happy to help you find a solution that’s right for you.

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