Thick plumes of black smoke surge up from what looks like an ocean of dumped car tires in a scene that can only be described as apocalyptic.
It’s not from a new Mad Max movie, it’s a real fire that burned at what was one of the world’s biggest tire graveyards in Kuwait.
The fire burned some seven million tires and the smoke was visible from space.
The site was home to about 42 million old vehicle tires which were dumped in the sand.
Only seven kilometres away there’s a town full of people.
What happens when you burn a tire?
It’s not good news for people living nearby.
Tires are very difficult to ignite, but when they catch fire they burn intensely and are extremely hard to extinguish.
The US Environmental Protection Agency says tire fires cause hazardous compounds including gases, heavy metals and oil.
One average car tire will produce two gallons of oil when burned.
This oil contaminates everything it touches, the soil, surface water… everything.
And the gases are equally dangerous.
What happened to the world’s biggest tire graveyard?
After the latest fire in October last year, the Kuwait government decided enough was enough.
The government decided to build 25,000 new homes on the site and started the process of removing the 42 million tires.
And the good news is these tires are not just being moved elsewhere, they are being recycled.
Here’s what the Al Sulabiya tire graveyard looks like now, courtesy of Google Earth.
A recycling company called EPSCO Global General Trading was contracted to sort and shred the scrap tires.
The material is then turned into rubber flooring tiles.
Other tire fires
- Seven million tires burned in the US state of Virginia in 1983. The fire burned for nine months and caused air pollution across three states.
- In 1999 a lightning bolt started a fire in California at a tire dump. It burned for 30 days and cost $3.5 million to clean up.