A few million tires are recycled every year, and some of them get a second life as mulch. Many people use it in gardens and landscapes to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and keep soil cool in summer and warm in winter. Others have embraced it for playgrounds, where it helps soften falls and prevent serious injuries from a fall off equipment. The problem is that the rubber mulch made from scrap tires can introduce toxic chemicals into the soil. Some of these chemicals are carcinogenic, but even if you use rubber mulch with caution, it can still pose problems for plants and animals.
A new kind of rubber mulch is bonded with a binder, which makes it safer and easier to handle than traditional loose-fill options. It’s also more durable and resists weather, fading, and rot. It’s also more attractive than loose-fill rubber mulch, and it stays in place better. It’s available in a variety of colors and can be used for landscaping, playgrounds, and other recreational areas.
Like other types of mulch, bonded rubber will suppress weeds and improve the appearance of your garden. But there are some downsides to using it: it can smell unpleasant, it’s not as easy to work into the soil, and it can be more expensive than organic or natural mulch. It’s also not as beneficial for plants, as it can block water and heat from reaching the roots, and it doesn’t decompose or add nutrients to the soil.
Rubber mulch can also have a pungent, rubbery smell when it’s hot and humid. Some homeowners find that it can also irritate their skin. Other concerns include the potential for heavy metals to leach into the soil, causing harm to plants and animals. These risks have led some parents and professionals to refuse to use it in playgrounds and athletic surfaces.
Unlike loose-fill mulches, which can be spread unevenly and can clump together, bonded rubber mulch has a consistent look and texture. It’s also more expensive than organic mulches, and it requires a layer of landscape fabric under it to separate the mulch from the soil. This is important because you cannot till or work in the bonded mulch with a shovel, as you would with organic or wood mulch.
While the advantages of bonded rubber mulch are clear, you should consider all the pros and cons carefully before choosing it for your home or business. If you do choose to use it, be sure to follow the instructions carefully for mixing and installation to avoid any safety issues. You should also test the bonded rubber surface frequently for lead and other contaminants using a handheld NitonTM XL3t XRF analyzer. This testing will help ensure that the surfacing meets industry standards and is safe for children and pets to play on. The analysis will be performed by an accredited laboratory, and results should be reported within 10 days of the testing date. If you have any additional questions, contact your local distributor or a professional installer for more information.