Despite the fact that vehicle tires are quite resilient and can withstand years worth of wear and tear through multiple seasons of rain, sunshine, sleet, and snow, friction does eventually take its toll. In most countries, tires are shipped out to be recycled but in Kuwait, that’s not the case and is the primary reason why you can see a sea of tires from space in Sulabiya. The landfill houses over seven million tires, although not all of them originating from Kuwait itself as surrounding countries are allowed to pay a fee to have their own tire waste shipped to the landfill.
The Environmental Hazards of the Landfill
As most of us know, landfills pose massive environmental risks as waste gets piled sky high and left to sit for hundreds or thousands of years. In a lot of cases, the waste that is being dumped cannot disintegrate into the earth’s soil as it is not biodegradable, meaning that the waste either never gets broken down or the chemicals that leak from the waste pollutes the environment. In the case of the Kuwait tire graveyard, if a fire were to break out, a lot of toxic chemicals would be released into the air. Back in 2013, this occurred, with millions of tires catching fire and burning for days. It took a joint effort between firefighters, soldiers, and the Kuwait Oil Company to put it out.
Why Tire Disposal in Landfills is Illegal In Most Countries like Britain
In order to avoid the environmental disaster and the release of toxic chemicals both into the earth’s atmosphere and ground, shipping tires out to landfills is illegal in the majority of countries including the entirety of Europe. In 2006, Europe banned the disposal of tires in landfill sites, ensuring that over 480,000 tonnes of tires were shredded and recycled. With this ban in effect, more than eighty percent of the tires that are generated in Britain are processed and recycled through their Responsible Recycler Scheme, ensuring that the tires are reused in an environmentally friendly and acceptable way. Often, they will be used to create artificial sports pitches, carpet underlays, equestrian arenas, children’s playgrounds, and running tracks.
In future, recycled tires are going to be turned into “crumbs” to be used to create road surfaces that are quieter than traditional asphalt roads. According to a test done on one of Scotland’s busiest roads, not only does the recycled rubber surface allow for better grip and skid resistance but it still allows for proper drainage and creates a quieter, more comfortable drive. As of right now, there are about 20,000 miles of road made out of recycled tires, with more countries like China, Brazil, Germany, and Spain taking on the idea and re-surfacing their busier roads, thus cutting traffic noise by about twenty-five percent.
As more and more environmental hazards are becoming apparent from the dumping of tires in landfills, more countries and governments are committing to banning the process. If you are interested in learning more about the Sulabiya, Kuwait tire graveyard, simply search up the name and you’ll be able to see those who have visited and journeyed across this massive landfill on foot. Be wary though, it is a desolate experience.