As well as you look after your bicycle tires, they will eventually wear out and reach the end of their useful life. This typically happens when the tires blow out or after they’re used for a few thousand miles.
And, when it happens, you’re left with no choice but to get a pair of new ones and dispose of the old. But what if you’re unsure how to dispose of them properly?
Bike tires can’t be recycled, so the usual way to dispose of them is to throw them in the trash. Still, many cyclists prefer to find ways to repurpose old bike tires, as throwing them in the trash means sending them to a landfill.
Exactly what kind of rubber the tires contain depends on the type of bicycle they’re intended for.
These days, bike tire manufacturers use a variety of composite materials and chemicals to make their tires supple but durable.
Tires for mountain and hybrid bikes, for example, are typically made of nylon and various kinds of rubber. When they’re not tubeless, they tend to have inner tubes made of butyl rubber.
Road bikes are a different story. Although recreational cyclists also put butyl tubes in their road bikes’ tires, pro cyclists tend to use latex tubes because they weigh less and roll with minimal resistance (though they also puncture more easily).
What Happens When You Throw Old Bike Tires in the Trash?
If you toss a bike tire in the trash can, it will be picked up come garbage collection day, and then processed and sent to a landfill site intended for general waste.
This is often the simplest disposal method, but it is far from the best. Landfill sites aren’t a long-term solution to the worldly problems of waste—and they shouldn’t be treated as such.
Scientists estimate that rubber takes roughly half a century to decompose.
The waste in landfill sites will sit for decades and decades, gradually breaking down into microplastics.
Microplastics are tiny traces of man-made material up to 5 millimeters in length. They build up in the ecosystem, pollute the environment, and cause harm to the Earth in more than one way.
These will eventually wash out of the landfill site, or get released when the landfill inevitably gets broken down or opened up. They will then enter the rivers and oceans or build up in the soil, causing major damage to mother nature.
The more waste we can keep out of landfills and reuse instead, the better our planet will function. And since the bike is supposed to be the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation, it’s up to us to make sure it stays that way.
Disposing of Old Bike Tires Responsibly
There are a few options when it comes to disposing of bike tires, but almost all will require you to look into the facilities that are available to you locally. The two major upcyclers of bike tires stateside are Green Guru and Alchemy Goods.
You can also ask at your local bike shop, as many will have schemes for recycling tires, or contact details for firms that are set up to recycle them. They may put you in touch with the right person, or they may recycle the tires for you. Some will charge for the service, but it will not usually be very much.
This is a good way to keep bike tires out of the waste stream, reduce your footprint on nature, and ensure that the materials get reused for the greater good.
Creative Uses for Old Bike Tires
If you are interested in the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra, you will already be aware that reusing comes before recycling, but you may be wondering how you can do this with bike tires.
They have a limited lifespan during which they are useful on your bike… so what else are they good for?
Fortunately, there are lots of things:
One of the most popular involves using the tires or the tire tubes to tie things. They are flexible and strong, and they are also pretty weather-resistant, so they will hold up well in the garden. A lot of people use them to tie trees to poles or to bind back plants.
You can also find a second use for them on the bike itself. For example, they make excellent handlebar grips. They are comfortable to hold and because of the rubber, should provide you a with good grip. All you need to do is cut the tube open so that you have a rectangular strip, and then wrap this around the handlebars.
Some people also repurpose their tires by turning them into exercise bands. You can cut any length that you want for this, and then use it to undertake the basic exercises you would expect to do with an ordinary resistance band.
In some situations, slices of tire or inner tube may work like giant elastic bands. They can be valuable for holding items together in your saddlebags and grouping them neatly so that you can find the things you need.
As a final possibility, some people also use old tires to hang their bikes up. This reduces the pressure on your new tires, reducing the risk of damage or flats on your good tires.
However, if you are going to do this, make sure the rubber is still strong. When bicycle tires get to a certain age, the rubber starts to break down and lose strength. You don’t want your bike falling off the wall if the rubber suddenly gives up, so be cautious about this use.
Disposing of old bike tires is a frustrating process. They are an item that needs fairly frequent replacement, but unfortunately, there is no simple solution and they cannot be recycled easily. Many people therefore choose to repurpose their tires to help keep them out of landfill sites for as long as possible.