Recycling Scrap Rubber Tires into Playground Surfaces, Mulch and Bark
Scrap tires used in recycling
Tires are one of those things that we pretty much can't live without (at least if you have a car you can't) but that we pretty much have to also learn to live with once they have served our purposes (no longer on our cars). Disposing of scrap and recycled tires can be a real headache, but many companies, recognizing the need to dispose of these cumbersome donuts, have learned new and creative ways to re-cycle, re-purpose and re-invent with old tires. One of the uses that has really taken off in California is using recycled tires as playground mulch, bark and on playground surfaces.
I have been to several parks in the San Francisco Bay Area that are using this technology, and using it well.
Types of rubber playground surfaces being used today:
- Poured surfaces
The dangers of unsafe playgrounds
As an art teacher, mother and grandmother, one of the things that I have always enjoyed is taking my kids to the park. Most of us have done this and some of us have also heard about awful playground tragedies leading to serious injuries and even death. Many of these injuries have occurred because of falls on hard concrete or other hard surfaces that playgrounds have traditionally been made with.
Did you know that 90% of playground structures are considered unsafe? And it's mainly due to the poor and/or inadequate surfaces. More than 200,000 playground injuries end up in the emergency room every year. That is an astonishing 500 plus visits per day! And those are just the emergency room visits, not counting private visits to doctors (information gathered from Rubber Recycle)
Playground mulch and rubber bark
Playground mulch and rubber bark is being used today and replacing the use of traditional wood tan-bark - and it has many advantages over the use of tanbark. It is:
- more cost-effective
- environmentally friendly
- lower maintenance
- cleaner (minimizing dust and particles)
- does not splinter
- longer lasting (up to 10 times longer)
- retains it's color and vibrancy
- does not stain clothes
- saves tires from the landfill
Rubber Mulch and recycled bark is such a softer surface than traditional wood mulch and concrete that impact studies have shown a significant reduction in contusion and head-related injuries.
Poured playground surfaces and surfacing
Another playground surface gaining popularity in playgrounds around the U.S. is "poured rubber surfacing". This is done through a company that comes out to the site, bids, designs, fabricates and then pours the rubber material into a custom shape for the playground.
One of these poured applications has been done at a playground in Fremont, Ca. through a grant, which saved over 800 tires from the landfill by using this new technology. Not only did they save tires but they have created a beautiful, soft and safe surface for the children to play on.
A few weeks ago when I visited this park with my class I was absolutely amazed at how soft and nice the surface was. It put me at ease with the children and visually it was very clean, bright and even to walk on.
Playground rubber surfacing, that is poured in place, gives you the ability to create custom designed rubber surfacing for playgrounds that are ADA compliant and exceed playground fall height regulations.
Status of tire recycling and disposal in the United States
Number of scrap tires generated annually:
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Number of scrap tires used in ground rubber applications:
Number of scrap tires punched/stamped into new products:
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Number of tires in stockpiles:
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.