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You like the look of mulch and the way it keeps out the weeds, but you’re tired of putting down cubic yards of the stuff year after year. Take a look at rubber mulch — a number of companies grind up recycled tires to make it. One such company, International Mulch, sells many different products including bedding cover, playground cover, and pavers.

Like all mulch, rubber mulch keeps plants healthy by preventing moisture from escaping the soil. Rubber mulch is much heavier than wood mulches, so it won’t blow, erode, or float away. It doesn’t decay, absorb water, or attract insects, plus it inhibits the growth of mold and fungi. You can safely spread it on your playground, too, since it’s non-toxic and ADA-approved.

For some reason, products made from recycled materials are more expensive, and rubber mulch is no exception. Available in a variety of standard and custom colors, a cubic foot can cost upwards of $20, but you can find it for $15 or less if you shop around.

Rubberific Mulch [International Mulch Company]
Street Pricing
[Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


20 Responses to Permanent Mulch From Recycled Tires

  1. rbb says:

    27 cubic feet/cubic yard *$15/cubic foot = $405/cubic yard?!?!?!? For that price I would expect free delivery via limousine…

  2. kdp says:

    I’d think twice before I put rubber mulch down in my yard. Then, if I decided to go ahead and do it, I’d think again.

    Rubber mulch bleeds zinc and cadmium, is not as effective as organic mulch in controlling weeds and eventally DOES decompose into components that are particularly toxic to beneficial landscape microbes and aquatic environments. It’s also flammable (as organic mulch can be) and difficult to extenguish




    The top two links referenced are to the Washington and Ohio state Extension services and the third is to an Agronomist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

  3. DaveS says:

    I like the idea of creating artificial reefs from discarded tires better – it provides a great habitat and substrate to repair the natural reef damage we’ve caused…


    Er, maybe not.

    It took 20-30 years to understand why tire reefs would be problematic, and another 20-30 to clean them up (I’m guessing, since it’s not finished yet). We may not know the problems of used tire mulch for another 20-30 years, but I’m betting that the “permanent” feature will become a curse at some point…

  4. Reiver says:

    ADA Approved?

    As in the American Dental Association?

  5. Reiver:

    ADA is what the site says… I might be the American Dental Association, think of all the chipped, broken, and lost teeth that happen on the playground.


    Like I said I can’t understand why all the new recycled materials are so much more expensive then comparable materials. It’s not like you have to go milk the trees to get the rubber, it’s coming to your factory in big donut shaped chunks of rubber, all you need to do is grind the thinks up and remove the metal from the radials… maybe dye it to look pretty.

    Composite decking is the same way, its sawdust and recycled plastic bags, they just grind it up and glue it together… but they charge more than endangered Rainforest wood species.

    We pay through the nose to recycle, then we pay through the nose again when we buy recycled products. Seems to me that somebody is profiting from the “Green” revolution.

  6. Lew says:

    The IMC site refers to: “ADA compliant”

    ADA = Americans with Disabilities Act

  7. Chris says:

    That’s a pretty ridiculous price compared to what I remember seeing at the Big Three (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Menard’s) last spring. I think it’s about double what they were selling it for then.

    The fact that this stuff costs more than about a buck per cubic yard seriously bothers me, though, because the companies that recycle old tires are getting paid to dispose of them in the first place.


  8. Blind says:

    Wasn’t there some issue about the rubber being used in playgrounds and melting enough under the heat this summer to be sticking to the kids?

  9. Bill says:

    Our school playground has this and the kids come home with black hands and knees.

  10. Charlie says:

    Correct. Tires melt if they get hot enough. For evidence of the risk, considered ‘crumbed rubber’ that is mixed occasionally with asphaltic oil for “rubberized asphalt” paving. This sits in the sun within roadways when it is over 110degreesF sometimes. Researchers have found it can break down, and drip into the top several feet of soil below the road base. So, why’d you want to poison your landscaping and trees? Buy natural mulch instead.

  11. KFH says:


    Sorry, I do not get your math. Are you saying that it will cost $405 to cover one square yard when you pile on the mulch to a height of 1 yard? If you pile on the mulch to a height of 1 feet (still too much height, I think), it will cost you 9 cubic feet times $15 = $135.

    Or are you just saying that one cubic yard of this mulch is $405? This point, I get.

  12. Shopmonger says:

    kdp Says:

    August 27th, 2008 at 1:04 pm
    I’d think twice before I put rubber mulch down in my yard. Then, if I decided to go ahead and do it, I’d think again.

    Rubber mulch bleeds zinc and cadmium, is not as effective as organic mulch in controlling weeds and eventally DOES decompose into components that are particularly toxic to beneficial landscape microbes and aquatic environments. It’s also flammable (as organic mulch can be) and difficult to extenguish

    Where is this data coming from?

  13. Chris says:

    @KFH: $405 per square yard at a yard of depth is one cubic yard, yes. Landscaping materials are often priced by the cubic yard, and no other mulch that I can think of is anywhere NEAR $400 per cubic yard in price.

    Most mulch packaging recommends it be applied to a depth of about four inches, IIRC, which means one cubic yard of mulch would cover nine square yards (81 square feet) of surface area at that depth.


  14. Chris says:

    @Shopmonger: did you not read the three links immediately following the portion of kdp’s post that you quoted? That’s where the data is coming from.


  15. Michael R. says:

    I put rubber mulch down in my flowerbeds some 5 years ago now. I haven’t lived there in 2 years so haven’t seen it up close, but it grew flowers wonderfully the years I was there. In the two years tenants have been there, the worst was some crab grass that invaded, but a landscaping firm pulled it out and topped off the mulch with some I had left over and it’s like new again. I did put down a bed of stone with weed barrier then real top soil then more weed barrier before the mulch. One other benefit of rubber mulch is that it isn’t conducive to bugs that would nest in decomposing regular mulch, including the kind that later jump up and leave tar-like black stuff on your house.

  16. Shopmonger says:

    Amazing that Rubber…. a natural substance is so bad…….

    Haa haa haa Sounds like some of you also believe all the articles in the New York Times………..

    If it is processed properly, cleaned and prepped and you watch the PH i your soils you will many years of great service, and in fact it it very effective

  17. Zathrus says:

    Uh… what’s all that natural about the rubber in modern tires? It’s synthetic rubber, made from petroleum derivatives, not natural rubber from rubber trees. If you want to call it natural, then so are plastics.

    In any case — Yes, this is rather overpriced. You can get playground quality mulch (which requires more processing, and has far less steel wire in it) for ~$10/cu ft (yes, that’s still $270/sq yd, or about 10x the cost of natural mulch) or less. If you’re using it for landscaping, it’ll take quite awhile to pay back *AND* it won’t add any organics to the soil. If you’re using it for playgrounds, however, then it only requires about half as much for the same protection, so the cost proposition is better. (The big advantage being that, in theory, you don’t ever have to replace the mulch since it doesn’t decompose)

    The zinc leeching is of questionable importance — most plants are not zinc sensitive and would have no issues growing in it. As for the runoff — it’s pretty much moot. If the rubber wasn’t shredded, then it’d be leeching from tire dumps anyway, so if this is a serious issue to you then campaign against the zinc content of synthetic rubber. Have fun.

    Finally — I call BS on the “melting rubber”. If this was a serious concern, then it would’ve been seen decades ago in tire dumps, or even on cars parked on hot asphalt. The melting point for rubber mulch is over 200 degrees F, and the spontaneous ignition point is over 600 degrees F.

    Note that the Ohio State paper mentions that they tested with “cigarette butts, matches, and a propane torch”. Cigarettes are not an ignition source for rubber mulch — they’re simply not hot enough. I’m unsure about matches. I’m sure you could ignite it with a propane torch, but that’s hardly a realistic scenario.

    Here’s a report produced for the state of California on rubber mulch on playgrounds and other surfaces; note that it doesn’t address the ignition issue, but it does cover the toxicity issues extensively. http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Publications/default.asp?pubid=1206

  18. Shopmonger says:

    I would totally disagree.. propane torch is in playgrounds all the time ((((haa haa haa haa haa haa j/k)))))

    What I am refering to is that even synthtic rubber, comes from base petroleum products that when broken donw, as they decompose they will return to base chemicals….

    Don’t get me started on Plastics, too many people think that these are not biodegrable, some plastics are, and most can be recycled. but the media and tree huggers do a great job of showing us how bad they are, with little or no actual research

  19. Chris says:

    Shopmonger, either you’re seriously misinformed or you’re being deliberately manipulative with your definitions. Yes, pretty much anything is “biodegradable” given enough time for enough “bio” to “degrade” it. However, the idea of a landfill as some giant communal “compost pile” is laughable. The stuff you put in a landfill is not going to break down in your lifetime, in the lifetime of your children, or in the lifetime of their children’s children’s children.

    This isn’t “treehuggers and the media” engaging in some conspiracy; it’s basic science. I suggest you spend a little more time reading scientific research in peer-reviewed journals and a little less watching Fox News.


  20. Zathrus says:

    Shopmonger, what on earth are you talking about?

    Synthetic (specifically, vulcanized) rubber that’s used in tires does not “decompose”. There is no natural process for breaking it down into “base chemicals”. At best, a vulcanized rubber tire will self-shred into smaller pieces after 50-80 years, but there’s nothing that’s going to magically reverse the manufacturing process and turn the tire back into petroleum products (which, you might have noticed, don’t exactly degrade into anything either… since they’ve been around for a few million years underground).

    As for plastics — it entirely depends on the type and where it’s stored. Thin polyethelene (think, grocery bags) will break down from UV radiation in a few weeks. If it’s exposed to it. Toss it in a landfill and bury it and it’ll be more like 10-20 years. Treat PE with UV resisting additives and it can last decades or centuries… which is what modern landfills are lined with. Polystyrene (think, styrofoam) will last much, much longer — hundreds or thousands of years. And, again, nothing munches on either of these, but UV light can eventually break the polymer chains. Oh, and there are virtually no recycling programs for polystyrene since it’s not cost effective to try and do so.

    And yes, I’m all for recycling. My city has an excellent curbside recycling program, and an even more extensive recycling center <2 mi from my house. But recycling and “biodegradable” are not the same thing, and I think its you that needs to do some research in this area.

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