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Old tires could someday be recycled as building materials

More than 200 million tires are discarded in the U.S. every year. This could put many to good use.

DENVER — Have you ever wondered what happens to those car tires you replace every few years? 

It's something you should think about considering around 200 million tires are discarded in the United States every year. They often pile up to become ecological hazards.

Now, two University of Colorado Denver graduates have come up with a way to repurpose those tires.

Olivia Collier and Maslin Mellick got their idea after learning that Colorado is home to the largest used tire dump in the nation -- a tire pile that caught fire in 2020. 

Tire mountain, located about 50 miles northeast of Denver in Weld County, stores tens of millions of tires. Some get recycled, and the rest are piled up.

Working together, Collier and Mellick invented the rubber tire tile.

The one-foot by one-foot tiles are made from discarded tires and can be used as siding for buildings. The tiles can do more than your typical building material.

"It's durable, it's water resistant, it's thermal, it's acoustic," Collier said. "They're all properties we can utilize in architecture."

The tiles can do that all at a lower cost to the environment. 

"How rubber is recycled now and how tires are reused now, there's still a lot of toxic off-gassing that occurs," Mellick said.

Traditionally when tires are shredded, sulfur gets released into the air. But the process to make the tire tiles breaks down the sulfur to a molecular level, reducing the amount of toxins released into the environment.

"We have created a more green sustainable green tire rubber material," Collier said.

The tiles could be a way to shrink those tire mountains and improve our buildings not only functionally, but also aesthetically.

"It's also beautiful," Collier said. "And it also attracts interest."

Collier and Mellick's goal is to commercialize their tire tiles in the near future.

However, they said they will need to do more research and testing before we'll see them on buildings.

Credit: WATN


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