Q: The winter season is just about ending where I live in South Carolina, and my tires have just about had it from all this crazy weather. How do I know for sure whether it’s time to give them the ol’ heave ho? And when I do, is there somewhere I can recycle my old tires? Or do I just dump them?

A: Your winter season is just about over? I’m jealous. Here in the rolling hills of suburban New Jersey, it still feels like we’re smack dab in the middle of it with no end in sight, so I envy you, my friend.

As for your tires, it’s definitely a good idea to replace them when they’re worn out, which usually happens about once every three years or every 60,000 miles, depending on where you live, how you drive, and your particular brand of tire. If you’re not sure it’s time to replace yours, try the penny test. Stick a penny with Lincoln's head top-down into the shallowest groove between treads. If you can see the top of Lincoln's hair, it's time to replace ‘em.

Most tire retailers offer deals on tires in sets of two or four, so when you replace your tires, you’re often throwing away more than one. So what do you do with those extra tires if you want to get rid of them in an environmentally friendly way, and you're not like my husband who likes to save them tucked away in a dark corner of the basement "just in case"? We also each have one in our trunks “just in case.” Along with a flashlight, a Swiss army knife, a change of clothes, and a blanket. (He likes to call it preparedness; I like to call it paranoid.)

The truth is, though tires produce a tremendous amount of waste with their sheer size, most local recycling pick-up programs don’t include tires. However, some counties have started seasonal or yearly tire drop-off days for old tires. Contact your local recycling center for details. Also, many tire retailers such as Firestone and Bridgestone will allow you to drop off your old tires for recycling, so check those out as well.

And what do they do with these old tires once they get them? Tires can be used on playgrounds to make a climbing apparatus or swings, or they can even be crushed and used as a playground base instead of those wood chips or pebbles (you remember those wood chips, don’t ya? The ones that gave you all those splinters back in the day?), making for a softer fall from those monkey bars for the kiddies. Tires can also be recycled as steel and can even now be recycled as green power.

And for those of who are just starting out with brand-spanking-new tires or aren’t ready to ditch yours just yet? Did you know that you can improve your gas mileage by around 3.3 percent just by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure? To boot, properly inflated tires are also safer and last longer.

For more ways to recycle your old tires, check out five great ways to recycle or reuse old tires. My favorite use for old tires by far though? Make yourself a good old-fashioned tire swing. All you need is a yard, a sturdy tree, and some rope. After all, what beats swinging in your front yard watching the fireflies at sunset on a summer evening? Mmmmm, I can feel it getting warmer already.

— Chanie

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