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Rubber Mulch: For Playgrounds and Landscapes

Updated on August 23, 2011
Rubber playground mulch is proven to be safer than other types of playground safety surfaces.
Rubber playground mulch is proven to be safer than other types of playground safety surfaces. | Source

Rubber Playground Mulch...

With the onset of spring and warm weather, gaggles of children joyfully scramble to their neighborhood, school, or backyard playgrounds to begin another season of outdoor fun. Swings, slides, ladders, forts, ropes, etc. will all be in full swing (pardon the pun). On the negative side of things, however, is the added risk of injury due to falls or other type of playground mishap. This is inevitable. Children play and children will inevitably scrape, bruise, or even break various parts of their body. This is why the need for adequate playground safety surfacing is so important.

In this hub, I will discuss some basic benefits of rubber playground mulch as well as provide a few ideas on how you, too, can incorporate the benefits of rubber mulch in other applications: namely your garden and landscapes.


Rubber Mulch: Why it is Such a Good Idea

As long as the vehicles we drive travel on rubber, there is almost an endless supply of used rubber tires (and other rubber material) from which rubber playground or landscape mulch can be manufactured. Let's face it: recycling is just the right thing to do. And if we can make our nation's playgrounds safer and landscapes more environmentally friendly in the meantime, then it's a no-brainer. Recycled rubber is flat-out smart.

Some of the greatest benefits of rubber mulch products are evident; such as:

  • Recycling tires is good for the environment. Every cubic yard of rubber landscape mulch keeps 60-70 tires from entering a landfill.
  • Little to no maintenance is required for rubber mulch, either landscape rubber mulch or playground rubber mulch. All you have to do is rake to level when needed.
  • The long-term savings more than exceeds the initial investment. No replacement of rubber mulch is needed unless, of course, it gets scooped out and lost.
  • Overall safety ratings for rubber playground mulch are unequaled. According to current American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) findings regardning playground safety surfacing materials, rubber playground mulch, when properly installed, outperforms all other popular playground safety surfacing. For example, the depths of safety surfacing needed to adequately sustain a 6’ fall height areas follows:
  • Pea Gravel and Engineered Wood Fiberchips: 9”
  • Sand: 10"
  • Rubber Mulch: 5"

As you can see, it takes a lot LESS rubberized mulch to break a fall than other more common safety surfaces.

Rubberized mulch is also:

  • American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant
  • IPEMA (International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association) certified
  • Non-toxic
  • Will not rot, fade, or compress over time
  • EPA approved


Rubber Mulch: A Final Word

Given its many positive features vs. other types of landscape and safety surface mulch, I feel rubber mulch is leaps and bounds (pun intended) ahead of their competition.

It is true that the initial costs will be higher than wood mulches and other playground and landscape surfaces, but given the lack of additional maintenance and annual replenishing, those initial expenses pay for themselves rather promptly; in many cases within 3-4 years.

The choice is yours. Pay now and get a better product. Or pay later, and more often, with a lesser product. For me, the reduced long-term costs and added safety of rubber seal the deal.

This beautiful mulch will be around for a while.
This beautiful mulch will be around for a while. | Source


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    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 

      4 years ago from United States

      Rob Jundt,

      The playground is a great use for this fantastic garden product. I tried out the brown and the black for my garden and the brown is a keeper. Here in the Midwest the black was constantly showcasing the leaves and debris. The formal front and side areas of our house are migrating to this expensive but GREAT material.

      I love the fact when the mulch spills over to the black top, if you step on it all you have is a soft bump.

      I prefer not to have this in the gardens where I dig all the time so I have started with the gardens that are tilled less. The roses all need this mulch - wonderful product.

      I was excited to find it and have been very pleased.

      Great product, many different uses.

    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 

      7 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Kids are going to swing too high, push their limits and do the polar opposite of what their parents want, especially as they get older. Even so, trauma from everyday activities is the number one killer of kids under 17, so we have to spell out boundaries for them. They will also put any ground cover in their mouths and throw that ground cover all over the place, whether it is sand, quarter minus, wood chips or rubber mulch. I love the idea of rubber mulch as it is an effective and cheaper alternative to the colorful and finished rubber surface of many new playgrounds.

    • Rob Jundt profile imageAUTHOR

      Rob Jundt 

      7 years ago from Midwest USA


      Thank you for your comments. Being that rubber mulches are not organic, there is no way to keep them from damaging grass and other plant life if displaced. That is one of the negatives surrounding the product. Any mulch, however, if left over grass will kill it since it takes a long time to break down, often a year or more depending on the amount of rain it sees. All that being said, most of the dangers associated with rubber mulches have been the toxins found in the recycled tires that were the mainstay of producing the product. Now that there are more manufacturers using virgin rubber pellets for production, those issues are slowly going away. I guess that's a negative for the "green" side of rubber mulch. As far as kids eating mulch in general, there is no way to end that. After all, kids are still kids and they will do silly, if not stupid, things. Eating wood, rocks, and sand is not that healthy either.

      Once again, thanks for dropping by. Your comments are always appreciated and the dialogue welcome.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      As long as the rubber mulch stays in its designated area in a playground, no prob. But over several afternoons I watched 4- and 5-yr-olds throw handfuls of rubber mulch at each other, most of which landed in the grass outside that designated area. Others scooped it up with their toy shovels into a plastic bucket and dumped the contents into the grass. The bulk could be scooped up and carried back to the area from which it came, but some of it couldn't. What happens to the grass in those areas. Wood mulch would disintegrate over time with rain and snow; sand would just work back into the soil. And what are the dangers of ingesting rubber mulch?

      Toddlers like to put anything they find in their mouths. Sure, if they "eat" rubber mulch, they'll spit out most of it immediately, but they'll surely swallow some of it. Can't imagine this is "healthy".

      I think we already make playgrounds too "safe" for kids. Is that really a good thing? Shouldn't they learn early on that certain activities like swinging too high on a swing could result in scraped knees or broken bones? How do they learn "too high" if we remove the possibility of scraped knees and broken bones during this very important phase in Life Lessons?

    • Rob Jundt profile imageAUTHOR

      Rob Jundt 

      7 years ago from Midwest USA


      First off, thanks for stopping by. I realize the basis behind your comments and would like to address them at short. As far as having to remove rubber mulch if it is no longer wanted that, unfortunately, must be done; as the product itself is not organic. The same can be said for other safety surfacing and mulch as well. If it is damaged or corrupted, it all must go. As far as the safety concerns of rubber mulch vs. organic mulch, I feel the jury is still out. Almost all of the landscape rubber mulches are being produced from virgin rubber, so it is fairly safe. There have been cases where recycled tires have posed a health risk with playground mulches, but with tighter regulations those issues should become more the rarity than the norm. On the flip side of safety, in my 2-plus years in the commercial mulch business, focusing on playground installations, I saw more than my fair share of environmental hazards with pea gravel (animals love this stuff for litter, not to mention it's heat retention and danger when thrown), sand (for many of the same reasons), and wood mulches (which tend to drift during heavy rains, rot, are a haven for mold and fungus, and tend to splinter). All this being said. There are pros and cons with every product. In my experience, as well as having to sell against it, rubber mulches and rubber-based safety surfacing is definitely on the rise. Once again, thank you for leaving such a knowledgeable and concerned comment.


    • handymanbill profile image


      7 years ago from western pennsylvania

      I do have concerns about this product and or questions. i have seen it being used but am wondering about some common sense concerns. What happens 10 years from now when the kids are grown up and you want to plant grass back there? What do you have to do dig it all up put dirt back in and landscape it? Then dispose of ground up tires? How about if some 2 year old puts a piece or two in there mouth and swallows it? Or if you use it to landscape with what happens when you get a big rain and it starts floating away? I will say that it looks nice and just because the EPA says it is safe well i would have to give it some thought. How long is a while. People like to change there ideas and how things look. That material might be around to long for some people.


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