Featured Articles

190 Million Tires Thrown Away Each Year: Where’s The Rubberized Asphalt Concrete (RAC)?

Posted in Politics, Roads, Science, Tires, Traffic by Vito Rispo | September 19th, 2008 | 16 Responses |

Everyone wants to be eco-friendly. Everyone is concerned with electric cars and hydrogen cars and air cars and solar power on the roof and every possible way to reduce their “carbon footprint”… but what about tires?

More than 240 million tires are thrown away each year in the United States. Fewer than 7 percent are recycled, 11 percent are burned for fuel, and 5 percent are exported. The remaining 78 percent are sent to landfills, stockpiled, or illegally dumped. That’s almost 190 million old tires a year wasted in this country alone. People in the auto recycling industry have known this for years. Tires are a pain in the ass to get rid of, no one wants them.

But there is a perfect use for them…

A use that addresses a problem we already have. In effect, it kills two birds with one stone; and yet, we’re not doing it on a large scale. That perfect use is Rubberized Asphalt Concrete (RAC). It makes for better roads, it’s makes for roads that need less work later on, and it’s easy to make. You just shred the tires into what they call “crumb rubber”, then melt it down and mix it with asphalt. Done and done.

So why are we not using this in all our roads? There’s a very simple reason, and I’ve talked about it a few times before: The government has a monopoly on street building. Politicians get to pick which companies provide the materials and build for the streets. And the biggest companies have the best lobbyists and always donate the most money to campaigns – so they get the contracts. There is no incentive to use a new technology that works better, they don’t need to compete, they just need to donate to the right politician. And the politicians just worry about getting elected. They’re not concerned if a product works better.

And Rubberized Asphalt Concrete (RAC) does work better.

1. Using RAC clearly reduces road noise by as much as 85%
2. Applying a two-inch layer overlay of RAC can save $50,000 per lane mile compared to using four inches of conventional asphalt in the same application
3. An overlay of RAC can prevent cracks in underlying pavements from reflecting through to the surface of the new paving
4. RAC retains its original color better than conventional asphalt and markings remain more visible
5. Using RAC saves on maintenance costs, a properly designed application can last 50% longer than use of standard asphalt
6. RAC provides better traction and can reduce traffic accidents in poor weather

It makes for better roads, that’s an established fact. We have a surplus of old tires in this country wasting away in our landfills, and we have roads that are constantly being worked on and in need of repairs. The obvious conclusion is to use those waste tires in our roads.

But there are limitations to RAC, it’s less effective in very cold environments, and it can be more expensive initially, even though it saves money in the long term. So it’s not a 100% solution to the tire problem. We need to do other things with these tires in concert with using RAC in roads if we really want to make an impact.

What are some other uses for old tires? Leave them in the comments.

Our Best Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 Responses

  1. […] friend Vito over at RideLust has asked the obvious question, based on a recycling technology that could actually be of some […]

  2. […] 240 million tires are thrown out every year in the U.S., and where do they go? According to RideLust, fewer than 7 percent get recycled, 5 percent are exported to other countries, 11 percent are […]

  3. Brian says:

    What are some other uses for old tires?

    Build a tire swing.
    Build a retaining wall.
    Use them as bumpers on your boat.

  4. flingcom says:

    Truly an eye opener. Makes you think as to where exactly are we all heading to. With thousands of cars hitting the roads every single day I guess this was bound to happen.

  5. flingcom says:

    Hope they figure out a better way to put these used rubber to use.

  6. Tesseracter says:

    chop them up, make a water & tire soup, compress it and heat it, turns back into oil. drive your car less, properly inflate your tires, get tires with longer tread life to reduce the causes of all these tires.

    Brian’s suggestions are fine, but are not sustainable. you’re gutta run out of retaining walls, boats, and children to use swings before you run out of tires.

  7. Geoff says:

    It’s not so much lobbying as the “low-bid” attitude.

    There is political incentive to pick the cheapest solution, and if it craps out after you’re out of office, it doesn’t matter.

    The low-bid philosophy for projects leads to the miserable deficit of real architecture in North America, and the lack of implementation on slightly-better but slightly-more-expensive alternatives like this.

  8. yo says:

    THEY CAN BE CUT INTO SMALL PIECES AND USED ON RACETRACKS FOR HORSES.sorry caps. i read somewhere where it was better for the horses.

  9. filey says:

    Make super-safe condoms!, a condom several inches thick will cut the teenage birthrate!

  10. rob says:

    alright the aprt where you talk about the politicians picking the companies, well its not really always like that. here in mass at least, theres a government job, then they see which company will do it the cheapest, then they do it. the construction companies then pick material companies to buy asphalt, concrete, granite curbing, etc from. they pick peopel that are cheap and they like to work with. its not some politician picking whoever gives them the most money. thats absurd.

  11. Amanda says:

    People can also build a type of house called an earth ship. THis is a self sustnible house.The tires heat up and provide heat that is gradually reduced through the day.

  12. jim says:

    Old tires can be converted into oil and gas (high grade). Google, Anything into oil. Apparently the oil companies are hostile to the idea. The company is, I believe,New world Technologies. Good website.

  13. Thomas m shaw says:

    I know for a fact you are correct but you are exluding another very important benefit of rac,I dont have the correct numbers,im thinking you can get them,its my understanding,that the use of tires also greatly reduces the use of petrolium in the mixture for the roads,as well as the roads can last up to 30years in most weather in the usa,as germany has been using rac for a very long time and dont have to replace thier roads as often as we do.i think the rubber replaces almost 80% of the use of petrolium in the mixture.im very intrested to know approx on average how many barrels of oil per year are used to replace our roads in the usa. and how many barrels of oil less would the usa use if we went 100% rac

  14. tevin says:

    just send thes tyres to me and i will take care of the rest.

  15. Macy says:

    EARTHSHIPS!! Everyone should be using tires to build their homes!!