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Tips for Recycling: Eco Friendly Tires Decrease Your Carbon Footprint | Tips For Recycling
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Eco Friendly Tires Decrease Your Carbon Footprint

image courtesy of ecoinstitution.com

What makes your automobile green? Being an electric or hybrid vehicle? Operating on alternative fuel? Getting 30 mpg or better?

What about tires? Regardless of the type of automobile, the tires on your car have a huge effect on your carbon footprint. So what makes a tire eco friendly?


 Most of the time when we talk tires and environment the focus is on disposal. Landfilling tires is banned in the majority of states, and recycling is on the rise. The US EPA estimates that 290 million tires are disposed of each year in the United States. 80% of them are recycled. There are many uses for recycled tires, including making more tires. So one way in which your tires can be eco friendly is to be manufactured from recycled materials.

Rolling Resistance

The US EPA focuses on rolling resistance as a measure of how eco-friendly a tire is. The lower the rolling resistance the less fuel will be used to propel the vehicle forward, thereby reducing GHG emmisions. The EPA launched its SmartWay transportation program in 2004 to promote fuel efficiency in the transportation industry. One component of this program is to utilize tires that have been verified as reducing NOx emissions by 3% or more. The EPA maintains a list of these tires on their web site.

Raw Materials

 The ability to recycle tires when they’re worn out, and the boost they give to your gas milage are important factors in being green. But the new definition of ‘eco friendly tires’ focuses on the raw materials used in the manufacturing process rather than the end product. The possibility that tires can be made from natural, renewable resources rather than relying on petroleum and other toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process, means that we will have a truly green alternative when it comes to shoeing our cars.

According to an article published by Waste and Recycling News, manufactureres are now putting a lot of emphasis on finding sustainable alternatives to natural rubber and the compounds used to make synthetic rubber. Among these are replacing petroleum with orange oil, use of resins from the guayule shrub and Russian dandelion that mimic natural rubber, and the use of organic material to generate isoprene, a primary component of synthetic rubber. 

Bridgestone has created a technique to manufacture isoprene from biomass, which is then used in the manufacturing process. Yokahama uses orange oil in place of petroleum in the manufacture of their tires. Michelin is working on creating isoprene from feedstock. Goodyear and DuPont are also working on plant based alternatives.

Reasearchers at Michigan State University are working on a technique to capture gaseous isoprene from plants, which can be converted into bio-isoprene for  This process has the added benefit of essentially creating isoprene from carbon dioxide; the plants take in CO2 and give off isoprene gas.

Read more about these exciting advances in biomass engineering at Waste and Recycling News, Tire makers intensify plant, biomass research.

Other ways to make your tires eco friendly

 In lieu of running out and buying new tires that are SmartWay verified or manufactured from plant-based materials, what can you do to make the tires you have on your car now more eco friendly? Here are some tips:

  • Keep tires properly inflated. Tires should be checked once a month when the tires are cold (wait a minimum of three to four hours after driving). Invest in a reliable tire guage to check air pressure. Make sure valve stem caps are secure, and replace if missing. This ensures that grit and dirt don’t get into the valve stem and allow air to escape. Inflate to the pressure suggested by the tire manufacturer (not the vehicle manufacturer…remember Ford vs. Firestone and the Ford Explorer debacle). 
  • Replace tires when tread reaches 1/16th of an inch. Do the penny test. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head when a penny is inserted into the tread groove your tires must be replaced. Many tires also have built-in treadwear indicators, which appear as strips of smooth rubber across the tread. When the wear bars appear it’s time to replace the tire. 
  • Visually check tires for signs of uneven wear. Look for smooth spots on the tire surface or tread being higher or lower in some areas. If you see these signs take the vehicle to a licensed mechanic to check for alignment or suspension issues that could cause more serious problems down the road.
  • Rotate your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
  • Have the alignment checked annually. Poor alignment causes the tires to ‘scrub’ across the pavement rather than roll smoothly along the pavement. This decreases fuel mileage and accelerates tire wear.

The message in all of this? When considering how eco friendly your car is, don’t stop at the manufacturer’s stated fuel milage, at internal combustion or hybrid/electric, or at the type of fuel the car uses. The right tires will help decrease the carbon footprint of any vehicle on the road.


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One Comment

  1. Posted July 17, 2012 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Way to go Yokahama for leading the pack!

One Trackback

  1. By Eco-Friendly Tire Tips | Publisher Monitoring Platform on February 20, 2015 at 11:35 am

    […] with sustainable materials for tires. Michigan State University researchers are working on biomass engineering processes and materials for tire […]

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