Bicycle tires don’t last forever.
Sure, you can always patch up a flat or fill it with slime. But the tire will eventually wear out and the patches will lose their seal. Sooner or later, you will have to take it off and mount a new one.
Once you’ve removed the old tire from the bike, what’s the eco-friendly thing to do with it? These days, nobody wants to dispose of rubber as garbage and have it end up in landfills.
So can bike tires be recycled?
Bicycle tires contain rubber, plastic, and other chemicals that pollute the environment. Unfortunately, recycling them would be too expensive, which is why most recycling centers don’t accept them.
I guess that’s why the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) says that bicycle tires should be disposed of as regular trash on regular collection days. This is in stark contrast to car tires, which must be taken to a drop-off.
For more sustainable ways to recycle bike tires, check with your local bike shop.
In case the local bike shop doesn’t accept your tires or will also dispose of them in the trash, you have other options: Although you can’t recycle bike tires, you can repurpose them in many ways.
Cycling should be the greenest and most environmentally friendly mode of transportation of them all. And when we dispose of worn tires and punctured tubes, it’s up to us cyclists to make sure it stays that way.
According to Nature.com, micro-plastics are tiny pieces of plastic from the garbage in landfills. Studies have proven that these micro-plastics may cause issues with reproduction and even cause physical harm to animals.
Keep reading to learn more about where to take your used bike tires and how you can repurpose them around your home.
Are Bike Tires Recyclable?
Bicycle tires can’t be recycled and, unless your local waste management service accepts rubber, you shouldn’t throw them in the recycling bin.
Most recycling centers don’t accept rubber—the main material in bike tires—and therefore won’t accept old bicycle tires and inner tubes along with the rest of your stuff for recycling.
Throwing old bicycle tires into the recycling bin at the curb can ruin the entire batch of otherwise recyclable materials. So, while doing so may seem like a harmless way to… ahem, force eco-friendliness, you’re really creating more trash for the landfill.
That being said, it’s important to avoid sending bike tires to the landfill whenever possible. Because they are non-biodegradable, they will take hundreds of years to break down. When the tires finally start to break down, they will release micro-plastics into the soil.
How Do You Repurpose Old Bike Tires?
Even though you can’t take your old bike tires to a recycling center, there are still ways to repurpose them and avoid adding to micro-plastic pollution.
For example, some companies will take your old bike tires and turn them into construction materials or playground rubber.
One of the places that will accept mailed-in old bike tires is Green Guru. All you have to do is place your bike tires into a flat-rate shipping box and mail them to Green Guru, where they’ll be repurposed.
(N.B. You do have to cover the cost of shipping the tires, but at least you know you will be keeping them out of the landfill.)
Companies like Green Guru email you coupon codes for their products as an incentive to send in your bike tires. While this probably won’t cover the cost of shipping, it’s a nice way to do something good for the environment and save some money on future purchases.
What Else Can You Do With Old Bike Tires?
If, for one reason or another, you can’t send in your bike tires to a company like Green Guru, there are still ways to keep them out of the landfill.
By using your ingenuity and imagination, the possibilities for turning old bike tires into something useful in a weekend DIY project are almost limitless.
Here are a few ideas to give you inspiration:
Tire planters. Stack two or three old bike tires on top of one another. Glue them together or tie them with string so that they hold their shape, then fill them up with dirt and use them as a tire planter in your garden.
Succulent wreath. Halve the tire with a knife and use it as a base for a succulent wreath.
Make a mirror frame. Wash the worn bike tire with soap and water to remove all dirt and grease, then pat it well and let it air-dry for a day or two. Paint it and hang it on the wall as a frame for a round mirror.
Use them to prevent drafts. There’s nothing worse than a cold draft from a window or door in the winter. To keep the cold air from getting in, place a strip of old tire tubing beneath the window or door.
Turn the inner tube into a belt. You’d be surprised how cool a worn bike tire can look when it’s transformed into a belt. (Since it’s made of rubber and plastic, it’s also very durable.)
Turn them into rubber bands. Once you’ve removed the steel mesh from your bike tires, you can cut them up into different sizes of rubber bands.
Turn them into chair seats. By cutting your old tires and tubes into strips, you can create a comfortable seat for indoor and outdoor chairs. Weave the tire strips in a lattice pattern and attach them to the sides of the chair, and you’ll have a long-lasting place to relax and unwind.
Use them to make hula hoops. This is one of the easiest ways to recycle old bike tires! Before the kids hop in the new hula hoop, make sure the edges of the tire are smooth. Use a small piece of sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots so they can hula hoop comfortably—and you’re all set to go.
Unfortunately, you can’t recycle old bike tires and tubes at recycling centers. However, there are still many ways to repurpose them and make them useful once more.
Whether you decide to sew a bike tire purse or use them underneath your windows to keep the cold air from getting in, you’ll be saving them from ending up in the landfill and harming the planet.