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by Cara Hollis

Seems like an odd question, but there has to be some reason Clean Up The Lake has pulled 156 tires out of Donner Lake to date.  Yes 156.  If that doesn’t make you wonder, how about 132 tires in a single mile of Fallen Leaf Lake? WTF, right? Some are car tires, some are tractor tires, and none of them belong at the bottom of a beautiful alpine lake.  So, this makes one wonder, how did they get there?

There are some logical explanations.  They were used as bumpers on old docks and either accidentally fell in or were thrown in the lake when docks broke down and were replaced.

There are some silly explanations.  They bounced down from Interstate 80 after accidents and made a splash landing in the lake.  Or there IS a tire factory at the bottom of the lake.

Then you get to the infuriating explanations.  They were dumped in the lake because it was cheaper or easier than disposing of them properly.

But no matter the explanation, the truth is, they do not belong in any lake.  Especially since, it would take about 2,000 years for a tire to decompose.  And when they “decompose”, they just leave contaminates behind in smaller particles.  Let us not forget that Donner Lake is one of the reservoirs that the Truckee Meadows Water Authority supplies drinking water from!

Today tires consist of about 19 percent natural rubber and 24 percent synthetic rubber, which is a plastic polymer and it is estimated that they contribute anywhere from 10-28% of the microplastic pollutants in the world’s oceans and waterways.  These microplastics are often mistaken by marine based wildlife, be they fish or fowl, as food and the plastic accumulates in their digestive tract and alters their physiological processes, leading to sickness and early death.   As you can imagine, a lake filled with ugly tired and dead animals is not a pleasant sight (or good for local businesses.)

There are simple and much better ways for people to get rid of the tires they no longer need.

In Truckee, individuals can take used tires to the Eastern Regional Landfill and Transfer Station.  There is a fee, but it is well worth it to keep our local lakes and drinking water clean and healthy.

  • Car tires: $11 per tire no rim, 16.50 with rim
  • Truck Tires: $16.50 per tire no rim, 19.25 with rim

If you live on the south side of the lake, you can find tire recycling at South Lake Recycling.  Again, there is a small fee, but it is to keep your drinking water clean!

  • Tires up to 19 inches are $4.90 each.
  • Tires from 19 inches to 24 inches are 22.40 each.

Live somewhere else in the Tahoe area?  Let a Google search lead the way, you do have choices for disposal.

Tires need to be disposed of properly.  For the sake of our beautiful lakes, wildlife,  and our clean drinking water that we all enjoy, put in the effort to find where you can dispose of them the right way.  And for Pete’s sake, stop dumping them in our lakes!

For more information about Clean Up the Lake please visit us at If you would like to help us keep your favorite lakes beautiful, a link to make a tax-deductible donation to Clean Up The Lake 501(c)3 can be found here.