Metro Parks & CW Clean Walnut Creek

Volunteers use ropes to haul tires up the embankment of Walnut Creek. This years clean up yielded 48 tires.

September 6, 2021
by Lydia Scofield, Pickerington Online Intern

& Eighth Grader at Ridgeview Junior High

Pollution is so much of a problem that many people do nothing, believing that no matter how hard they try, they’ll never make a difference. This ideology they have is wrong! Even if it’s as simple as making sure your waste is put in the recycling or trash can, every little thing adds up.

You probably think you’ve heard it all- “stop using plastic straws” and “greenhouse gases are ruining our environment!”, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, these are serious problems and need to be dealt with, but they’re hardly the only types of pollution that threaten our environment.

For instance, tires can be a serious problem. It may be difficult to imagine, but many people don’t follow the proper measures to get rid of them. Instead, they toss their old tires someplace where it’s no longer their problem, like in creeks.

This not only creates an eyesore, but the tires also contaminate the water that they’re tossed into. A study published in National Geographic found that tire particles make up a significant percentage of the microplastics found in global bodies of water.

According to National Geographic, “the problem with microplastics is that—like plastic items of any size—they do not readily break down into harmless molecules. Plastics can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose—and in the meantime, wreak havoc on the environment. On beaches, microplastics are visible as tiny multicolored plastic bits in sand. In the oceans (or rivers), microplastic pollution is often consumed by marine animals.”

Tires which are not submerged in the water become habitats for rodents and harmful insects.

Per the Federal Environmental Protection Agency website, “Each tire in a yard, if improperly stored, can become a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes which can carry life-threatening diseases such as dengue fever, West Nile virus and various forms of encephalitis.

The design of tires provides an ideal nursery for mosquito larvae. Tires fill with water after a rainstorm and retain the water as some of the inside areas of the tires are shaded continuously, preventing evaporation of the trapped water. Tires are somewhat insulated and retain heat for long periods of time that speeds up mosquito egg hatching and larval growth. They also collect leaf litter and debris that provides nutrition for the larvae.”

There is no clear answer as to why people choose to pollute the rivers, but Mindi McConnell, the park manager at Walnut Woods Metro Park, has a some guesses.

“I believe currently this may be done for a few reasons, it could be what they were taught growing up so it is an acceptable behavior to some,” said McConnell. “It is plausible, as time tends to move quickly and there are many who were raised in the eras where pollution was something rarely spoken about. They may simply not realize what they’re doing is damaging the very planet they live on.”

Some may not have the money to pay the fee of $1-10 per tire to bring them to a recycling center and decide to make their tires somebody else’s problem instead.

Nickolas McConnell, an eighth grader at Berne Union, poses with a portion of the recovered golf balls.

“Perhaps they don’t see the need to pay to get rid of something when there’s a way to do it without paying,” McConnell said. “It could also be a mere inconvenience for some to drive to a recycling center ‘just to get rid of some tires.””

There are several businesses such as Liberty Tires who accept old tires which they recycle into other products like road pavement. They’re a nationwide company that collects more than 33% of the nation’s scrap tires annually. They have a location at 3041 Jackson Pike in Grove City, so it wouldn’t be too much of a detour.

If you’re unable to bring your tires to a recycling center, several counties offer free tire recycling days, on which you can rid yourself of your old tires at no cost. Fairfield County generally holds their free tire collection in the spring.

You have to prove that you live in Fairfield County, the tires have to be from passenger vehicles like cars and trucks (no tractor tires) and you can’t drop off more than ten.

Another way people can help with the problem is to volunteer to help clean up the waterways.

For instance, Walnut Woods and the city of Canal Winchester do a tire-collection each year where a group consisting of employees and volunteers go through Walnut Creek, digging out tires and any other trash they find along their way.

In 2011 when the Metro Parks and the Canal first partnered up to tackle the issue, the group uncovered around 90 tires and have since averaged around 30 a year.

Dick Miller, a urban forester for the city of Canal Winchester, hauls a tire out of Walnut Creek.
Photo by Mindi McConnell, Walnut Creek Metro Park

The 2021 cleanup held on October 2 yielded 48 tires as well as other trash including a 12 foot section of large-diameter pipe, a gas tank from a motorcycle, a traffic cone, one golf club and thousands of golf balls.

Golf balls have rubber cores which dissolve to add more microplastics the water system.

“It is truly wonderful that people want to help us clean our creeks, it is very much appreciated,” said McConnell. “Volunteers are always appreciated, and with their assistance it’s easier to clean up the creek.”

It varies, but typically, they get anywhere from eight to 20 volunteers each year, this year they had 15.

After collecting the tires, the Metro Parks take them to be recycled at Liberty Tires.

If you choose to help out, it is advised that you bring waders, or other water-resistant clothes. Parts of the creek can get over five feet deep, so it’s better safe than sorry.

Clothes that you don’t mind ruining are also recommended.  They will get dirty or if you’re not careful, you may rip them on a pipe or rock.

Article author Lydia Scofield helping collect tires from Walnut Creek.

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