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Waste tires in Wisconsin

Waste tires present environmental, health and safety hazards. These hazards include fire and stagnant water that breeds mosquitoes and potential diseases such as West Nile virus. The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for managing the proper disposal of waste tires, defined here as tires that are no longer suitable for their original purpose because of wear, damage or defect.

Under s. 287.07(3), Wis. Stats., it is illegal to dispose of tires in a solid waste landfill. The tabs below contain information about proper management of waste tires.


In October 1986, a massive waste tire fire in Somerset consumed millions of tires and burned for weeks. It was estimated that approximately 15 to 20 million waste tires were stockpiled in the state at that time. The tires were being stockpiled to avoid landfill costs, because many landfills were no longer accepting them for disposal or because property owners where the tires were stored thought old tires would one day have resale or reuse value.

In May 1988, these issues spurred the state Legislature to pass a law creating a Waste Tire Removal and Recovery Program in the DNR. That law provided staff and funding to address the problems associated with stockpiling and the lack of markets. The funding source was a $2 per tire fee on new motor vehicles at the time the vehicle was initially registered in Wisconsin.

Between 1990 and 1997, the DNR cleaned up 12 million tires at 162 sites. Private parties cleaned up an additional 4 million tires at 408 sites. Almost all the tires were processed into fuel and used for generating energy or electricity at industries. In addition, the DNR provided grants to establish an infrastructure for collecting and processing tires and to establish end-use markets. The Legislature ended the program in 1997.

The processing and reuse of waste tires has changed considerably since the end of the Waste Tire Removal and Recovery Program. There are fewer waste tire processors in the state and the market for waste tires has changed.

In 1997, energy recovery was the primary market for waste tires, consuming about 95% of what was generated. A survey conducted in 2006 found that about 50% of the waste tires were used in energy recovery, 45% in a variety of products and the remaining 5% in landfill geotechnical applications.

More information

Vehicle tires

Tires from personal vehicles

As an owner of a personal vehicle, the best way to deal with your old tires is to take advantage of the service provided by the store where you buy your new tires. Almost all new tire dealers will take old tires for a service fee. Very few municipalities provide these collection services, so if you do have a small number of waste tires that accumulated in your garage, contact your local recycling program or see the list of DNR-licensed waste tire handlers.

Tires generated by businesses and farms

Many businesses generate waste tires, including new and used car dealers, automotive repair shops, auto and scrap salvage yards, tire dealers, farms and large businesses with fleets. In most cases, these businesses are required to either obtain a license to transport waste tires or hire a collection and transportation service that is licensed by the DNR to transport waste tires to a licensed processor.

It is also important to store waste tires properly at a business site prior to disposal. The DNR recommends waste tires be stored inside. If this is not practical, outside storage in a closed container or with a tarp over the pile is recommended. This will prevent water from collecting in the tires and minimize mosquito breeding.

You should dispose of waste tires on a routine schedule, accumulating no more than one truck load of tires at any time. A licensed tire hauler can arrange a schedule for pickup to ensure tires do not accumulate and cause a nuisance. You should also check local ordinances for other licenses and/or storage requirements.


Information for waste tire haulers

Owners and operators of services for the collection and transportation of waste tires must obtain an operating license from the DNR. Services that collect and transport less than 20 tons per year of waste tires (approximately 2,000 automotive vehicle tires) are exempt from licensing.

The operational requirements for these services can be found in s. NR 502.06, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR].

Waste facility and transporter license application information


Information for waste tire transfer, storage and processing facilities

Owners and operators of services for the transfer, storage or process of waste tires must get a plan of operation approval and an operating license from the DNR before their business begins operating these services. A plan of operation is a written document submitted by the owner or operator of the proposed facility that contains information about the physical layout of the facility, description of the surrounding environment, storage of processed and unprocessed materials and facility plans for the protection of public health and the environment. For storage and processing facilities, the DNR also requires that the facility have financial responsibility in place for the closure of the facility.

The administrative code specifying the plan of operation requirements is found in ch. NR 502, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR], and financial responsibility requirements in ch. NR 520 [exit DNR].

Individuals seeking information on the financial and operational aspects of operating a waste tire business may want to consult with the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, which has useful information on aspects of the management of waste tires.