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Earth Sense: Recycling best way to use old tires, appliances, plastics
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This month’s Hall County Green Alliance meeting included discussion about items retrieved during cleanup events at Lake Lanier.

“There were the ever-present car and truck tires,” said one member. “People actually think that if they toss them in the water, they’ll go away.” They won’t, of course, unless volunteers pick them up and recycle them.

Dumping tires in the lake means dumping them in our drinking water, because the lake is the reservoir of potable water for Gainesville and surrounding areas.

Tires that are recycled provide raw material for many products. Shoe soles, floor mats, and automotive products like belts and attachment straps for mufflers are just some of the examples.

In some states, scrap tires are used to blend into new road asphalt, with good results.

But the surprising fact for many is probably the energy content in car tires. Each one delivers as much energy as 7 gallons of oil, when burned in a power-generating recycling plant. As far as their heat output, shredded tires beat coal by 10 to 16 percent.

Refrigerators are another common item appearing at lakeshore cleanups.

“Some houseboat owners don’t think twice about dropping that old fridge overboard when it quits,” said a committee member.

This is another resource that could be put to good use. Unfortunately, there’s usually a recycling fee (check with the Hall County Recycling Center at 1008 Chestnut St., across from the Featherbone Communiversity site).

The reason is the Freon, which must be removed from the compressor with professional equipment. Other appliances, like dishwashers, stoves or washing machines, don’t contain Freon and don’t belong in the lake either.

Take them to a local metal recycler and expect to be paid $8 to $20 each, depending on weight.

Plastics from bottles, cups, and thousands of household items are probably the greatest nuisance. The material doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it photo-degrades in the sunlight, breaking down into little pieces. This tends to kill animals who swallow them.

To degrade completely, a piece of plastic takes an estimated 500-1,000 years. Not only are our lakeshores afloat in waste plastics, the world’s oceans are, too.  

The natural rotation of ocean currents has produced a plastic garbage patch in the Pacific that’s so large that it can be seen from space. With regards to waste plastics, again the 1008 Chestnut St. location is the best choice for recycling.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University.


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