America's love affair with the automobile has produced more than drive-in cinemas, drive-through fast food, and even drive-in churches. It has produced worsening gridlock traffic jams, untold tons of airborne pollutants, and mountains of discarded tires. That last problem poses more risk to the environment than most people realize: Stockpiled and illegally dumped tires take up landfill space, leach chemicals into the water system, and provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rodents. Even worse, when they catch fire, oil seeps into nearby canals and rivers, overhead electrical transmission lines are destroyed, and severe air pollution is created in the form of billowing clouds of thick black smoke.
Just how extensive is the problem? According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, in 2001 alone, 281 million scrap tires were generated, weighing about 5.68 million tons. Each passenger car scrap tire, on average, weighs 20 pounds and contains 7 gallons of oil. Fortunately, most are reused. 115 million were utilized for fuel, 40 million were used for civil engineering applications, 15 million were exported, 33 million were processed into ground rubber, and 8 million were transformed into new products.
That last category is of especial interest during this holiday season, because there are companies that offer to consumers a wide variety of products that give used tires a new tread on life. One such firm, Vulcana transforms those discarded tires into fashionable bags, desk accessories, portfolios, promotional products, and other items. Many of them are made of a durable new fabric, created by fusing (pesticide-free) hemp to their patented, recycled tire sheet rubber.
So if your Christmas shopping list is weighed down with tired, recycled gifts, lighten up your impact on the environment with some recycled tire gifts. The planet will thank you — including the North Pole!