Use for Old Tires
Old tires are easy to come by. The United States alone generates about 300 million scrap tires per year.1 That's about one tire for every resident! In 1990, only 17% of scrap tires were reused, retreaded, or recycled in the United States. Fortunately, that figure rose to over 80% in 2003. Today, about 45% of scrap tires are used as fuel, and about 19% are recycled or used in civil engineering projects.2 About 1.7% of tires are used for creating miscellaneous stuff, which is the kind of stuff you’ll learn to make in this guide! Worn tires are surprisingly easy to reuse in your garden, your home, and even your children's play area ☺
BENEFITS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: When improperly disposed of, tires take up space in landfills and provide breeding grounds for rodents and mosquitoes. Reusing your tires for practical projects gives old tires a new life. Making your own swing, retaining wall, or shed out of old tires instead of buying new wooden or plastic products also saves energy and natural resources.
Cost: Low. Old tires are free and abundant!
Time and effort: Varies, low-high, depending on the chosen project.
Getting Started on Your Tire-Based Projects:
Before beginning most of these projects, you should wash your tire/s. Scrub both the inside and outside of the tire with soap, water, and bleach. If you don't find the end-product aesthetically pleasing, remember that you can always paint your tire in bright colors!
Projects for the Garden
Protect newly planted trees from mowers. Cut a tire once (as if you were cutting a bracelet off your wrist). Then place the tire around the sapling. Once the trunk has grown to the size of the tire, remove the tire.
- Prevent erosion on steep slopes by building a retaining wall out of tires. Use a sledgehammer to pack the tires tightly with soil. A 15-inch tire will require about 300 lbs of earth. Stack the tires in a staggered fashion, just like a brick wall. Stuff mud, tin cans, and rocks into the holes between the tires, and then apply cement plaster.3 If you're building a retaining wall for the first time, don't build it too high, as a poorly constructed wall may endanger you and your family.
- Create a pole foundation, which you can use as a trellis for climbing plants. A sturdy pole is also handy when hanging a clothesline or building a sunshade. Lay a tire down flat, line the bottom with newspaper, and pour concrete into the tire.
Tire Retaining wall4
- Make a flower planter. Your tire can have a rim or not—if it does have a rim, the planter will be elevated with a “stem.” Lay a tire down flat and cut out a scalloped circle to mimic the petals of a flower. Then turn the tire inside out. Spray with a good degreaser, let dry, and paint a bright color.5 Once you've mastered these planters, let your creativity flow!
Projects for the Kids!
- Before building garden beds, cold frames, and compost bins out of tires, do your research! Although these projects have been popularized by many thrifty gardeners, they might pose health hazards. Tires "can leach cadmium and other heavy metals into the soil as they weather, and must never be used for garden or compost containers because cadmium is very harmful to human and animal health.”7 Some say that the metals do not leech in amounts large enough to pose a health risk, but I prefer to abide by the precautionary principle and skip these projects. Why would I needlessly endanger my food supply? If you do decide to plant in tires, use well-aged tires because they will contain less toxins to leech. Plant vegetables such as green beans and cucumbers, which have a low susceptibility to cadmium uptake. Avoid spinach, garlic, potatoes, and carrots.8
- Another popular project that you might want to avoid is filling a tire with water to make a small backyard pond. Stagnant water attracts mosquitoes and rodents.
Projects for your Home
Build a sandbox for the little ones. Fill a large tire (preferably a tractor tire) with sand. When not in use, cover the sandbox with a tarp to detract kitties.
- Construct an old-fashioned tire swing. Thread a rope through a rubber tube (to protect the tree). Make holes in the bottom of the tire to prevent pooling water and breeding insects. Hang the rope over a sturdy tree branch and secure it to the tree and tire with square or double-overhand knots.9
- Construct a sturdy pole to post a volleyball net or a tether ball! As described above, lay a tire down flat, line the bottom with newspaper, and pour concrete inside the tire to create a pole foundation. If you need more weight, add another tire, of equal or lesser size, on top of the original tire and fill it with concrete.10
- Get creative with your kids! Use tires to build an elaborate pony swing11 or a one-of-a-kind obstacle course!
Stabilize your pet's water bowl by putting a tire around it. Now even the most energetic dog won't be able to tip his or her drink over!
- Protect your car from scrapes. Hang a tire on your rear garage wall. Alternatively, cut a tire into strips, and then nail the strips to the walls at the same height as your car's bumper.
- Make driving even safer by lining your long driveway with tires. Bury the tires vertically about half-way into the ground, and then paint them with reflective tape.
- Nail strips of tire on ramps and stairways to prevent slip and falls.
- Construct a shed out of tires. To build the walls, pack the tires tightly with soil and stack them closely together. Then add a conventional beam-style hip roof.
- Feeling creative? There are so many more uses for rubber tires. Make yourself a pair of garden sandals.
- If you're really handy and looking for a major, life-changing project and investment, make a home out of tires!
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9 http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/how-to-plans/backyard-tire-swing-project; http://www.ehow.com/how_17381_hang-tire-swing.html
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