Dear Recyclebank: Are bike tires and inner tubes recyclable? –Jon K.
Dear Jon: Despite being a form of plastic, many rubber products — including bike tires and inner tubes — cannot be recycled by your local curbside recycling program. However, they can often be reused, upcycled into cool gifts, or recycled by specialty recyclers. See the list of ideas below.
Rubber Vs. Plastic Vs. Recycling
“Plastic” tends to refer to materials made of synthetic polymers of a certain type, but there are many, many types of very different materials made of polymers. Rubber, for instance is also a polymer, but it’s not considered a plastic.
When a hauler says they accept plastic for recycling, they are generally referring to very common household plastics, and they’ll probably specify what type of plastic they accept by noting a Resin Identification Code [RIC], for example, “#1” or “#4”, or a product type, for example, “bottles” or “containers”.
These types of household plastics have more in common with one another than they do with their fellow polymer, rubber — at least when it comes to making a particular type of plastic an economically smart candidate for curbside recycling. Curbside-recyclable plastics tend to have these characteristics in common: A large volume of products used and disposed of around the home — in most homes — that are made from the same type of plastic, and these plastics usually retain the properties that make them valuable throughout multiple rounds of recycling.
Making Smart Rubber-Disposal Choices
Rubber is an amazing material, with so many uses. The least resourceful thing you can do with used rubber is let it go to a landfill; the best thing you can do is make it last as long as possible. For example, patching holes is a great way to get a longer life out of bike inner tubes.
Rubber is a versatile material, so when a product made of rubber really just can’t be used for its original purpose anymore, reusing and repurposing it is the answer! Lots of crafty individuals and companies will take apart rubber products and upcycle them into fun new products, and you can too!
Check out these great products and craft ideas to upcycle and repurpose rubber:
3. Bike fenders
Also some industrial companies recycle rubber into new products, such as floor mats for gyms or mulch for playgrounds.
While recycling your bike tires and inner tubes isn’t quite as easy as dumping them in your recycling container, it is still pretty easy: Most bike shops will take your old inner tubes and tires off your hands. And once they’ve collected a good amount, they’ll ship them to specialty facilities that can responsibly recycle them.