Scrap Tire Markets
The turnaround in U.S. scrap tire consumption is astonishing: In 1990, only 11 percent of annually generated scrap tires were consumed in beneficial end use markets. The rest went into stockpiles. For many stakeholders, including USTMA, this a priority issue.
By 2017, end-use markets consumed 81.4 percent of scrap tires generated in the U.S.
The top market categories for scrap tires are tire derived fuel, ground rubber and civil engineering applications. The need to expand all economically viable and environmentally sound scrap tire markets remains an imperative.
Key Scrap Tire Markets Include:
Tire-Derived Fuel (TDF): Scrap tires provide a cleaner, more economical fuel alternative to coal in cement kilns, pulp and paper mills, and electric utility boilers. TDF generates more heat than a comparable weight of coal but has a lower greenhouse gas impact since tires are partly made from a natural rubber derived from trees.
The TDF market used 106 million tires in 2017 (over 43 percent of total annual scrap tire generation) and it will grow with improvements in TDF’s quality and reliable delivery.
Ground Rubber Applications: Ground rubber is produced by grinding scrap tires into different sized pieces. Metal and fabric can be removed and the granules are sized for specific applications. Among its uses: new rubber products, landscaping mulch, rubber mats, and rubber-modified asphalt (which results in quieter, more durable roads).
In 2017, the ground rubber market consumed over 25 percent of the nation’s scrap tires (62 million of them) with playground, landscaping, mulch and molded and extruded products as the most dynamic segments.
Civil Engineering: Tire shreds are increasingly used instead of raw materials (e.g. sand, clay) for road and landfill construction, septic tank leach fields, alternative daily cover for landfills and many other construction applications. The benefits include vibration and sound control as well as lightweight fill to prevent erosion and landslides. Tires also facilitate drainage in septic, leachate and landfill gas systems. The engineering market consumed over 19 million of tires in 2017, about 7.9 percent of the total.
Other Markets: Smaller markets take on about 7.4 percent of scrap tires. These include tires used for:
- Electric arc furnaces (steel manufacturing)
- Land reclamation projects
- Exports of tire-derived fuel
- Products punched, pressed or stamped from scrap tires
Legal landfills consume almost all the remaining tires.