Commercial farm tractors produced by companies such as John Deere or Farmall generally use oversized tires for better traction and pulling power. Once these tractor tires have outlasted their usefulness, however, they are often discarded in landfills or hazardous tire fields. There are a number of things which can be done with reclaimed tractor tires, including gardening projects, play equipment, and even road construction. By reusing old tractor tires for other projects, conservation-conscious consumers can not only save money, but help save the environment as well. Uncontrolled tire fires create significant amount of air pollution and threaten water supplies with their petroleum-based runoff.
One common use for old tractor tires is as a natural container for a raised plant bed. The large circumference of a commercial tractor tire allows gardeners to plant a number of seeds within it. The tires can be placed on a level field and filled with amended top soil and/or compost. The sidewalls of the tractor tires would prevent the soil from spreading out, and the soil level would be deep enough to plant many popular vegetables or flowering plants. The tires would also be easier to install and remove than the standard wooden railroad ties often used to create raised garden beds.
Some people use old tractor tires as decorative borders or fencing. The tires can be partially buried in a predetermined row or even cut in half to form a barrier around a flower bed or other landscaping element. While the appearance of old tractor tires may not be suitable for a modern urban landscape, they may fit in perfectly well in a more rural atmosphere. The tractor tires could also be painted or decorated in order to minimize their functional appearance.
A popular use for old tractor tires involves a length of strong rope or chain and a sturdy tree. For generations, children have enjoyed playing in swings made from retired tractor tires. Automobile tires are often too small in diameter to form a safe swing, but a tractor tire is almost always the right size. The tire should be inspected for potentially harmful cracks or other damage, then hung securely from a rope or chain rated to hold several hundred pounds of weight. The selected tree should be in good overall health, and the branch should be thick enough to support the weight of a tire swing and an adult.
Tractor tires can also be used in playgrounds as part of an exercise course or as sandboxes. Individual tires filled with clean playground sand can easily substitute for more elaborate structures made from wood or metal. Old tractor tires generally do not degrade for a number of years, but tires reinforced with steel belts may not be suitable for playground uses because of the risk of exposure.
In recent years, a number of companies have used industrial shredders to break down old tires into very small pieces. This shredded rubber can be used in place of sand or fill dirt as a cushioning material on playgrounds or sports fields. The rubber mulch can also be mixed with gravel and asphalt for use in the road building industry. Some protective mats and athletic shoes are also made from a form of recycled rubber, which may very well have started out as tractor or automobile tires.