It’s estimated that around 13 million tyres are scrapped each year in the UK, and for the greater part, most of them used to go to landfill, or to the great ‘tyre fire’ in Powys (burning since 1989).
There has long been an environmental charge when getting new tyres fitted to your vehicle, that’s because landfills can no longer accept tyres and the nature of tyre rubber makes it pretty hard to dispose of. They’re made from a combination of steel, rubber and material which makes them incredibly hard wearing, conversely, that makes them a recycling nightmare.
However, when you buy new car tyres, you don’t have to leave your old ones for the tyre fitter to dispose of - you can take them with you and have a go at upcycling them.
Upcycling your way to a better planet
Whilst finding new and ‘innovative’ uses for an old car tyre can seem a little haphazard at times, there are some beautiful examples of people using old tyres to create everything from planters through to furniture, the main thread being homeware.
Of course, there are other uses for scrap tyres – think of any race circuit (even one with F1 status) and you’ll see tyres banded together to improve circuit safety, or tyre flip-flops (particularly popular in Vietnam) and even outdoor staircases. Tyres may be difficult to recycle, but they have hundreds of other uses when they reach their end-of-life.
Surely, nearly everyone reading this has been on a tyre swing? Easy to construct, virtually indestructible and needs no weather-proofing – the simplest version requires just two components (rope & tyre). All you need is somewhere to hang it.
There are a number of variations to the planter, either keeping the tyre intact and using the inner part for soil, or cutting out the sidewall to make more of a basket. The results are the same though, and whatever the design, they make great low-cost planting areas.
In similar keeping to the planter, you can cut away a sidewall and use a heavy polythene to create a unique container for water. You could even recess it into the lawn.
If you’re looking for something a little more child friendly, granulated tyres make for a great soft play area, although you’ll probably need to get professional help to granulate the tyre.
Art for art’s sake
There have been some stunning examples of artwork being created with discarded tyres.
From rhinoceroses through to gateways, wall hangings and decorations, it seems that the only limit to these pieces of artwork are the imaginations of the creators.
It doesn’t matter if the piece is a table decoration or fills an entire outdoor space, old car tyres are so versatile that they can be cut into hundreds of pieces, or stacked together to form a shape – the beauty for larger sculptures is that tyres are quite structurally sound, meaning they can support a lot of weight.
It’s in fashion
Finally, a number of clothes designers have been working on projects using scrap tyres as a way of giving their statement pieces a little something extra, and of course, the fact that they’re recycling (or upcycling) only helps their fashion credentials.
These pieces include a Batman style suit (Ok, maybe not Batman, but a suit that gives you a defined muscle structure), belts, dog leads, shoes and accessories such as wallets or handbags.
Having said that, some of the designers are using the tread pattern as part of the design, so it’s unlikely that these are made from recycled car tyres.
Simple touches, big difference
It’s worth pointing out that a great deal of these old tyres can be coloured using regular paint, so black doesn’t have to necessarily be the new black; a tyre looks surprisingly different when coloured with some vibrant paint – think pinks, pastels and delicate shades.
Remember that if you’re cutting a tyre into smaller pieces, a regular knife or scissors won’t be enough – the rubber alone is tough, but the material used or the steel strengthening makes it almost impossible to through the tread section – try and use the sidewall if you need to cut a smaller piece out.