Environmental hazards of burning and dumping waste tyres

Dumping waste tyres not only poses a fire risk but rubber does not decompose, creating environmental hazards and negatively impacting the biosphere. Furthermore, the burning of waste tyres endangers people’s health by releasing toxic chemical compounds into the air.

Waste tyres are typically burnt in South Africa for the scrap metal content, and in the winter months for warmth, but have you considered the danger this can cause to your health?

Health authorities have warned that the inhalation of smoke from burning tyres in the open can cause lung and respiratory infections and worsen asthma, possibly leading to heart disease and the eventuality of death.

When tyres catch fire they break down into hazardous compounds including gases, heavy metals and oil. Burning tyres release a combination of hundreds of different toxic pollutants as well as a number of small particles that settle deep in the lungs.

In South Africa, the traditional method of dealing with old and used tyres is to dump them at the closest landfill site, and when these piles become too large, they are often burnt, creating large amounts of air pollution. This not only poisons the environment and poses a number of health risks but dumped tyres are also a wasted economic driver.

For every million tyres consumed by fire, about 55 000 tonnes of runoff oil can pollute the environment unless contained and collected. A solution to preventing this is recycling waste tyres, which can create an opportunity for resource sustainability. An example of this is the REDISA Waste Tyre Management Plan which makes sure that tyres are recycled into useful products instead of polluting the environment.

Before dumping or burning waste tyres, consider the potential dangers to not only your health but also the environment.