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What are the Best Uses for Old Tires?

By H. Terry
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tires are built for a relatively short-term purpose and then stay as they are for a very long time. This durability can be turned into an asset by finding longer-term uses for them. Old tires can be used for gardening, fashion and general fun. Wherever there is a need for strong rubber, old tires can offer an innovative and inexpensive solution.

Gardeners, as lovers of nature, might appreciate more than most people the value of putting old tires to new uses. Flower planters and pots can easily be made out of old tires. By cutting them into pieces, they can be reshaped to fit larger or smaller areas. Tire rubber is also commonly used in garden walls, garden edging or even in building more complex retaining walls. Instead of becoming garbage, these tires also can be used to contain garbage by piling several up to form a bin.

Despite their original utilitarian purpose, tires also can be fun. Shaped into a circle or square, a few tires can become a sandbox. A couple of tires filled with cement on either end of a wooden plank can form a seesaw or teeter-totter. They can be used to form almost all parts of an obstacle course or a playground, from rubber ropes and ladders to tire swings and hurdles. In boating, they might serve in makeshift tube-rides or as dock bumpers and buoys.

Environmentally astute designers have brought old tires into the fashion world. Belts, suspenders and sandals can easily be made out of cuts from old tires. Attractive and easy-to-wash-down furniture can be fashioned by braiding strips of tire rubber together. Some artisans have used rubber from these tires to create sculptures; with patience and dexterity, this craft can be practiced by anyone wanting to turn garbage into treasure.

Tire disposal is costly to the environment. Tires take up a lot of space in landfills and, when tire fires occur, they are difficult to extinguish and can spread dangerous contaminants. Tire recycling, in the sense of governments or corporations using complex processes such as microwave or ultrasound recycling, can be used in the production of rubber products such as asphalt or new shoes. This kind of recycling can be costly, though, because it requires breaking the tires down to a raw and more malleable material. By reusing old tires to suit new purposes instead of buying new products to do so, people can save both financially and environmentally.

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Discussion Comments
By tolleranza — On Oct 31, 2011

I used to work at a daycare that had a nice playground. Instead of having mulch, sand, grass, wood chips, or dirt, this playground had reused bits of tire making up the floor of the playground. They looked a lot like wood chips, but they were actually small pieces of recycled tire.

This did cost the church where I worked extra to have the recycled tires put into smaller pieces all along the playground floor, but I am sure it was money well spent. The children rarely got injured because of having such a padded and springy surface to fall on. I even had fun kind of "bouncing" on the playground floor!

The only down-fall I would say this recycled tire pieces used as a playground floor is that it made it kind of difficult for the children to run around, and play games like tag. Other than that, the reused old tire "chips" was a great asset to the playground.

By Monika — On Oct 30, 2011

This article had a lot of good idea for reusing old tired. However, it also reminded me of one of the worst uses for old tires that I've ever heard of: the Osborne Reef in Florida.

This artificial reef was built in the 70s, partially using old tires. I don't know why anyone thought dumping a bunch of old tires in the ocean was a good idea, but that's what happened. Anyway, the project was unsuccessful. Eventually the US military went in and cleaned it up as part of a training mission.

By SZapper — On Oct 29, 2011

@JaneAir - That's funny about the shoes. My mom likes stuff like that too, I think I'm going to mention this to her. She would probably be proud to wear shoes made from recycled tires.

Anyway, I've never used a recycled tire myself in my own yard. I live in an apartment. But I have seen a few gardens that used tires, and the affect was really cool. There's something about the contrast of the dark, synthetic rubber and a bunch of vibrant, natural flowers.

By JaneAir — On Oct 28, 2011

@Ivan83 - I've never heard of those earth ship houses, but they sound amazing. I don't own a home yet, but when I do I'm hoping to build one that is environmentally sustainable. I'm going to bookmark the earth ship houses for further study.

Anyway, I forgot all about this until I read this article. When I was younger, my mom had these shoes that were made from recycled tires. Well, I think just the sole was. But she was so proud of those things! She thought they were just the coolest. She used to be really into recycling and the environment, so the shoes were perfect for her at that time.

By FernValley — On Oct 28, 2011

I really do love playgrounds which use old tires and other recycled materials. It's just fun and sustainable at the same time, and it can even be really safe, since tires aren't sharp or splintery, like wood, and they don't have things like asbestos the way some treated woods and other materials do.

By Ivan83 — On Oct 28, 2011

Has anyone ever seen the earth ship houses that they have built in Taos New Mexico? They are incredible homes built almost entirely from recycled materials.

Many of the walls are made from used tires. They stack them up according to a pattern to ensure that they are structurally sound. Then they fill the tires with mud to give them weight and smear the outside with plaster or some other compound that dries hard and clean. The result is a wall that looks exactly like the wall in your home or mine, except that it is made of tires and dirt. It is really an incredible process and I wish that more people would be this resourceful when building their homes.

By shell4life — On Oct 27, 2011

I went to a cookout this summer, and I saw a use for old tires that I had never considered before. My friend had stacked three old tires on top of each other and poured ice in the middle. He was using them as a cooler!

We have mild summers where I live, so I'm not sure if this would work in hotter regions, but it worked great here. He put bottles and cans down in the hole with the ice, and because there was so much of it packed so closely, it didn't melt a lot, so the drinks stayed cool.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 27, 2011

I like using old tires to form individual flower gardens. I lay a tire flat on the ground and fill it with potting soil. Then, I plant either seedlings or seeds.

I don't have nearly as many weeds when I plant flowers in old tires. I pack them full so that I have an abundance of blooms that spread to cover part of the tire.

I love growing chrysanthemums in tires. Over time, the bushes spread to fill up the space with colorful flowers from a single plant. I also love growing pansies, petunias, and other semi-short flowers that will not topple over.

By cloudel — On Oct 26, 2011

One of my friends decided to get really inventive one year at Halloween. She went to a junkyard to get some old tires, because she had a plan to make a giant rubber spider.

She spent hours cutting and binding the pieces of old tire together to form eight legs bent at the joints and a body to hold them together. For the eyes, she used smaller tires and stretched green fabric across the holes.

The finished project was absolutely creepy. I would not visit her for a whole month because I could not stand to look at it. I have had nightmares about giant spiders chasing me, and she made the monster in my dream come to life.

By seag47 — On Oct 25, 2011

My grandmother had a tire swing hanging from a sturdy old tree in her yard. It had rope wrapped around it in three spots, and the pieces of rope met in the middle, forming a secure knot. From there, the rope led up to a giant tree branch.

The swing was big enough to hold me and my two sisters when we were little. We would spin in circles, giggling until we fell off in a dizzy stupor.

The tire did leave black marks on our clothes, though. My mom always made us wear clothes that were either old or dark when went to see my grandmother, because she knew we would end up on the swing at some point.

By Sara007 — On Oct 24, 2011

@letshearit - The playground my kids use helps with disposing of old tires by making them into swings and by using them as the borders for sandboxes. You would be surprised at how inventive the people in our city can be with the old tires.

I remember last year a friend asking me about where to take old tires when you were finished with them. In my hometown there is a group of artists that make various pieces of furniture and sometimes help out with the projects for schoolyards at no charge. They are really amazing at turning old garbage into something new and useful.

By letshearit — On Oct 24, 2011

On the playground of my old elementary school the borders of the sandbox were marked by a near-complete ring of large tires half-buried in the ground. We could also leapfrog over the tires or walk on them.

My friends and I used to spend hours playing on the old car tires. I wonder if they still do that on playgrounds these days?

It would seem to me with all the environmental action going on that many parents would think that old tires are dangerous. I can certainly see how someone might think they were toxic, but I still see it as a nifty form of recycling.

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