Discerning consumers, business owners, and government officials are creating a growing demand in the marketplace for sustainable building alternatives that are both smart and safe. These demands do not end within the four walls of a person’s home or the headquarters of businesses or government. The push for green alternatives has now spread to the grounds in the form of landscaping needs. They’ve also filtered into our parks and playgrounds.
Enter rubber mulch, an eco-friendly, high-performance solution for landscaping and safety surfacing applications. The advanced processes that convert scrap tires into rubber mulch create a stylish ground cover that’s non-allergenic and harmless to plants, pets, and children, and do so without depleting our natural resources. With rubber mulch, a one-time application remains vibrant and plush for years. And unlike wood mulch, rubber mulch resists blowing away or washing away, will not decompose or compress and will not fade for a decade or longer.
Rubber mulch is nontoxic, and the colors will not rub off on children or pets. It is clean, minimizes airborne dust and particles, and will not result in painful splinters. Rubber mulch also will not attract bugs, rodents, mold or mildew. Homeowners, entrepreneurs and public works officials know that replacing wood mulch every year becomes time consuming and expensive. Rubber mulch can save both time and money.
When you compare the expense of an annual application of wood mulch with an up-front purchase of rubber mulch, rubber mulch actually costs up to 65 percent less over a nominal five-year period. Moreover, for places where annual re-application of mulch is labor intensive and cost prohibitive, rubber mulch is smart solution. Taken together, the benefits of rubber mulch combine aesthetics, performance and cost savings, making it the natural choice.
When tires are recycled into decorative landscape mulch or playground safety surfacing, it becomes one of the best investments for the environment. Millions of tires are returned to the market, and millions of trees are saved from the shredder.
A Home for Plants
One major problem with re-applying wood mulch annually is accumulation. To get the look of a fresh and plush planting bed, last year’s wood mulch is normally covered with another layer to avoid the time-consuming and difficult task of removing it. But, when added year after year, wood mulch will actually harm plants. Layers of partially decomposed wood mulch inhibit plant growth because soil becomes matted, and nutrients and water are unable to penetrate. Excessive mulch causes rot in the trunks of trees and shrubs and creates a home for insects to attack. Worst of all, old layers of wood mulch encourage the development of a secondary root system.
Plants with a secondary root system in the mulch zone will begin to depend on it, causing the primary – deeper – root system to wither. This makes shrubs and trees vulnerable to drought because the mulch zone will be dry, and the plant will not have the ability to draw deep water. For large trees, if the primary root system withers, the tree will no longer have an anchor and become susceptible to toppling under heavy wind or snowy conditions. With rubber mulch, these pitfalls are avoided because plants will grow roots where they belong – in the soil. The purpose of any mulch is to suppress weeds, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. Rubber mulch does all three at the proper depth of one and a half to two inches without adding or removing layers year after year.
A Soft Landing
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that more than 150,000 children are injured each year as a result of playground falls. Given this statistic, safety surfacing becomes one of the most vital components of playground construction.
Playground surfacing is carefully evaluated to confirm that it meets the head impact attenuation guidelines set by the CPSC. These guidelines help ensure that playground surfacing is age appropriate and designed with the measurement of children’s physical dimensions, skills and abilities in mind. According to the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA), one of the leading causes of injury on playgrounds is falling from playground equipment. To minimize the frequency and severity of injury from playground falls, it is crucial to install high-performance playground surfacing that is IPEMA certified for fall height protection, and it is important to perform the installations under and around the equipment. When purchasing rubber mulch, it is important to source it from an IPEMA-certified manufacturer.
As safety surfacing, a six-inch layer of rubber mulch will cushion a child’s fall from as high as 16 feet. Rubber mulch provides up to 50 percent more fall-height protection than wood mulch using half of the material. Rubber mulch also passes the ASTM test for wheelchair accessibility.
An Outlet for Waste
We all use tires on our cars, trucks, SUVs, bicycles, and tractors, and that generates a tremendous amount of scrap annually. Recycling scrap tires for the creation of new products provides an outlet for a waste material that is generated constantly and remains in the waste stream for a very long time. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we generate approximately 290 million scrap tires each year. Historically, these tires took up space in landfills or provided breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rodents in stockpiles or illegal dump sites.
A shift has occurred in the way we treat tire waste as markets for innovative rubber products continue to grow. Ten years ago, 90 percent of the scrap tires Americans produced entered the waste stream, and only 10 percent were recycled. Now, 90 percent are recycled, and only 10 percent enter the waste stream. For added perspective, consider that American consumers recycle 90 percent of the scrap tires we use and just 40 percent of our plastic bottles. The concept of recycling tires into rubber mulch is simple, but the innovative processes used to perform the task are complex. A tire is comprised of three major components: rubber, steel and fiber. Because only the rubber component is desired for rubber mulch, the rest of the material must be removed and recycled separately.
The first step in converting whole tires to rubber mulch is to reduce the size of the tires. Tires are reduced in size by one of two specially-designed processes. With an ambient system, tires remain at room temperature and are fed into one or more shredders fitted with screens that determine the size of the mulch. Alternatively, cryogenic systems can freeze tires at extremely low temperatures. Tires are super-cooled using liquid nitrogen, and the cold rubber (now extremely brittle) is processed through a hammer mill that shatters the rubber into small particles. With both processes, fiber and metal are removed as the material is reduced in size. A series of high-intensity magnets and metal detectors attract and remove the metal, and special-purpose air handling equipment is used to remove dust and fibers.
Once the tires are reduced to the proper size and metal and fiber have been removed, a coating is applied. This durable coating provides a finish that’s typically guaranteed to last for years. With modern performance and classic looks, rubber mulch is the ideal ground cover for planting beds. The variety of natural and vibrant colors fit any style – from classic wood tones to hues that are bright and fun. Similar to all truly innovative green building products, rubber mulch performs better than the traditional alternative, saves money, and contributes to a sustainable future.