The World Without Us

by on July 19, 2007 at 5:52 am in Books | Permalink

To this day, nature hasn’t come up with a microbe that eats it [a tire], either.  Goodyear’s process, called vulcanization, ties long rubber polymer chains together with short strands of sulfur atoms, actually transforming them into a single giant molecule.  Once rubber is vulcanized — meaning it’s heated, spiled with sulfur, and poured into a mold, such as one shaped like a truck tire — the resulting huge molecule takes that form and never relinquishes it.

Being a single molecule, a tire can’t be melted down or turned into something else.  Unless physically shredded or worn down by 60,000 miles of friction, both entailing significant energy, it remains round.  Tires drive landfill operators crazy, because when buried, they encircle a doughnut-shaped air bubble that wants to rise.  Most garbage dumps no longer accept them, but for hundreds of years into the future, old tires will inexorably work their way to the surface of forgotten landfills, fill with rainwater, and begin breeding mosquitoes again.

In the United Sates, an average of one tire per citizen is discarded annually — that’s a third of a billion, just in one year.

That is from Alan Weisman’s truly excellent The World Without Us.  Here is my previous post on the book.

1 Slocum July 19, 2007 at 8:30 am

I would seem like landfills could accept tires if they were sliced in half like a bagel. Then there would be no tendency to trap a donut of air.

2 JEAN July 19, 2007 at 9:15 am

They can be used to build coral reef.In Florida tires and ship were used that way

3 Ironman July 19, 2007 at 9:40 am

But did you know that old tires might help solve more problems than they create?

http://tinyurl.com/29ho6w

4 ah July 19, 2007 at 9:50 am

Ironman — I think the use of recycled tires in roads is even more extensive than this article suggests. The idea is being used a number of places for the sensible reasons cited in the article.

5 Jonas Cord July 19, 2007 at 10:44 am

This company takes used tires and produces energy and a number of useful commercial byproducts.

6 Joe Grossberg July 19, 2007 at 5:58 pm

Why not cut them into smaller pieces and/or fill that empty space with compacted trash?

7 KP July 20, 2007 at 1:15 pm

Here’s one rubber reclaim company:

http://www.gujaratreclaim.com/products.htm

And here’s the patent on a rubber devulcanizing product:

http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6590042-description.html

8 Peter Schaeffer July 20, 2007 at 3:36 pm

This is a classic example of what happens when people don’t have access to the Internet. A very quick check of the web shows that

“In 2003, more than 290 million scrap tires were generated in the U.S. Nearly 100 million of these tires were recycled into new products and 130 million were reused as tire-derived fuel (TDF) in various industrial facilities. TDF is one of several viable alternatives to prevent newly generated scrap tires from inappropriate disposal in tire piles, and for reducing or eliminating existing tire stockpiles.†

See “Tire Derived Fuel† (http://www.epa.gov/garbage/tires/tdf.htm)

Properly run cement kilns work well with tires because the limestone absorbs the sulfur from the tires (forming gypsum, not CaS). Cement kilns also have high residence times (up to 10 seconds) and very high operating temperatures (up to 1500°C). Cement kilns aren’t perfect and exhaust gas treatment is still required (apparently).

See “Use of Cement Kilns in Managing Solid and Hazardous Wastes : Implementation in Australia† (http://ariic.library.unsw.edu.au/griffith/adt-QGU20050926-215906/). A useful quote

“The analysis of organic compound emissions indicated that extreme high combustion conditions in a cement kiln combined with high turbulence and long residence times readily overcome any oxygen deficiencies inside the kiln to achieve destruction efficiencies exceeding the 99.99% regulatory requirement and even reaching 99.9999% in many cases.†

See also “Cement Kiln† (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cement_kiln)

Could someone please provide Alan Weisman and Tyler Cowen with access to the Web so they could fact check what they write.

Thank you

9 bacteriocentric February 3, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Most of these comments discreditng the obvious premise of Weisman’s book fail to see the light. Our continued survival as a mamalian species will ultimately depend on how close we live within the laws of nature…we are not independent entities that can go on squandering energy and biodiversity to keep our gas tanks full and the artificial economy on a upward growth curve. Please read between the words-and you will realize that Weisman is unequivocally correct!

10 flash games May 10, 2009 at 1:38 am

I think the use of recycled tires in roads is even more extensive than this article suggests. The idea is being used a number of places for the sensible reasons cited in the article.

11 Jaanvi October 12, 2009 at 10:00 am

I am introducing to you with a new rubber reclaim company “Raksha Reclamation” provides high quality reclaim rubber and crum rubber.
http://www.rakshareclaim.com/reclaim_rubber.htm

12 free online games February 18, 2010 at 5:46 am

Yap I think the use of recycled tires in roads is even more extensive than this article suggests.

13 tinggi badan May 21, 2010 at 3:40 am

Once rubber is vulcanized — meaning it’s heated, spiled with sulfur, and poured into a mold, such as one shaped like a truck tire — the resulting huge molecule takes that form and never relinquishes it.

14 travel August 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Th4t be an epic da shizzi4 post, th4nkie 4it & in da futures we’ll be seeing more of it

15 flight center August 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm

heb7e sh8at be th34nkie 4it on da posting left & righ8ty

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: