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New study shows 88 percent of auto repair shops recycle tires

American drivers toss out more than 300 million tires each year. A new study shows that 88 percent of auto repair shops recycle the old tires.

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From 1989 to 2001, a company called Used Rubber USA operated a retail store, offering cool gear to city-dwelling hipsters, on the corner of Fillmore and Haight streets in San Francisco. The company still turns old tires into book bags, wallets or belts and other merchandise--now online only.

Recycling used tires isn't a new idea, and now a study shows that most auto repair shops recycle tires rather than send them off to a landfill.

The organization Car Care Council has been urging auto repair shops to recycle more vehicle parts and engine fluids, in a consumer education campaign called Be Car Care Aware.

"Many people aren't aware of the widespread environmental thinking and practices in auto repair shops in the areas of recycling, disposal, and facilities management," Rich White, executive director of Car Care Council, said in a press release. "Shops have practiced sustainability for decades, and as a result, they have made huge contributions to a cleaner environment."

The study, just published by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), 88 percent of auto shops actually recycle tires. Also according to the AAIA report: 95 percent of engine oil is recycled, 63.3 million automotive batteries were recycled last year, and used oil filter recycling is up 50 percent.

U.S. drivers toss out more than 300 million tires every year, the study said. About 89 percent of the scrap tires generated in the United States by weight are put to new productive use, and not just as fashion accessories. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the rubber in scrap tires gets turned into mulch, playground material, asphalt, horse arena footing, and turf for the athletic industry.

"The recycling efforts of auto repair shops help keep tires out of landfills--where they can cause toxic runoff that can contaminate the soil and watershed--and out of tire stockpiles that can create fires, causing land and air pollution and contaminating surface and ground water sources. Stockpiles also are a breeding ground for mosquitoes and rodents that can carry deadly diseases and pose a threat to human health," the Car Care Council said in a press release.