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It all started with Johnnie

Tyres have been made from wood as well as leather,  iron and steel (wrapped around wooden wheels), and used on carts and wagons. The original spelling was ‘tire’, which comes from the French word tirer: to pull.

Pneumatic tyres

The first practical air-filled pneumatic tyre was made in 1888 by John Boyd Dunlop, a Scots-born vet, for his son Johnnie’s tricycle.

John Boyd Dunlop



Hot tyres

285 million tyres were scrapped in 2011 in the US. The good news is that now several countries have strict regulations on disposal of tyres.

A major issue is tyre fires. The fire releases a dark, thick smoke that contains carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and products of butadiene and styrene. Tyres can burn for weeks as they have a low thermal conductivity; they are difficult to cool down.

In 2014, 15,000 tonnes of tyres caught fire at a tyre recycling plant in Yorkshire, England. A Nasa satellite picked up on a 6000 foot plume of smoke from the fire, which took days to burn itself out.

NASA image ©PA

On 26 May 2012, a fire started in the ground tyre bedding material at the Iowa City Landfill, involving at least 7.5 acres of landfill. It was finally extinguished on 12 June. Some tyre fires can last for months.

Shoes, swings and earthships

Apart from uses such as sub-grade fill for embankments, backfill for walls and bridge abutments, and road insulation, used tyres are recycled to make shoes, swings and many more things.

Tyres are also used in earthships. An earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and recycled materials (such as earth-filled tyres). Mike Reynolds, who is the earthship king, started a revolution in building these off- grid structures.

You’ve got to grin to get it in

Wagon Wheels that is. Classic 1970s biscuit. Not being a fan, I preferred Jacobs Club, especially the orange one. I don’t remember this advert but then again ITV was banned in our house. Not suitable for a nice privately-educated girl. I did, however, indulge in ITV at a friend’s house. Naughty but nice.