A tire graveyard on the outskirts of Sesena, near Madrid has forced about 9 000 from their homes. The dump was declared illegal in 2003. The dump is possibly the largest in Europe with an estimated 100 000 tonnes of tires in the graveyard. The burning tires give off a thick, toxic smoke. Burning tires will release cyanide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and styrene in the smoke.
The fire was fought with both helicopters and planes. Water was dumped on the burning tires to try to contain the blaze, but once tires are set afire they are difficult to extinguish. Firefighters restricted the amount of water poured onto the conflagration as they were concerned that water would penetrate to the underlying aquifers polluting them.
By Saturday some of the people were allowed to return. Health authorities recommended that people wear surgical masks while outside and also recommended that drivers passing through the area keep their windows closed on their vehicles.
While it is early in the investigation as to how the fire started, suspicions are that the fire was deliberately set. Tires sitting in a pile are unlikely to start burning without some encouragement.
The problem of what to do with unwanted, worn out tires is a growing problem world-wide. Numerous tire storage dumps have caught since records were kept starting in 1983. Perhaps the grand-daddy of tire fires occurred in 1989 in Knighton, Wales which burned for 15 years.
The rubber and steel that make up modern tires is a valuable resource. In the Province of British Columbia, Canada consumers pay an eco-fee with each tire that helps fund recycling called an Advance Disposal Fee. We commonly refer to it as an ‘eco fee’. Tires can be repurposed as crumb rubber with the steel sent to recycling. Crumb rubber has many uses – athletic tracks, playgrounds, flooring, mats and landscaping mulch.
As with much recycling it takes some creative people to think outside the box and whole new profitable industries can spring up.
Tire Stewardship BC
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