What is Black Rubber Mulch?

Donn Saylor

Black rubber mulch is a type of mulch manufactured from recycled tires. While it is not organic, black rubber mulch has become fashionable because of its low cost and durability, as well as its environmentally responsible way of recycling old tires. This recycled mulch is particularly popular in decorative gardens and playgrounds.

Old tires are often used to make black rubber mulch.
Old tires are often used to make black rubber mulch.

There are several distinct advantages to using black rubber mulch over other types of protective covering. Rubber mulch is exceptionally long-lasting and does not require regular turnaround or replanting. It does not float, which ensures it will stay put during heavy rains or watering. The composition of the mulch also makes it weighty enough to withstand strong winds without blowing away. Black rubber mulch is relatively simple to use and involves no specialized equipment or machinery to install.

Even the White House uses black mulch to line its playground.
Even the White House uses black mulch to line its playground.

Users should also be aware of the potential drawbacks of using black rubber mulch. Not all brands are created with the same standards, and some are more ecologically sound than others. As black rubber mulch is comprised of old tires, certain types may still contain small pieces of steel belts, which can be hazardous when handling or kneeling on the product. While many brands make specific efforts to ensure the mulch is chemically safe, certain commercial varieties do not take this precaution, leading to toxic substances bleeding into the ground and endangering plants, animals, and water supplies. The odor of rubber may also be a problem for some users, though it has been established that this objectionable smell diminishes greatly over time.

If small bits of black rubber in a garden seem unappealing, several manufacturers currently offer colored mulch made of recycled tires. These are available in a wide variety of shades to suit any garden, from brown and black to red, blue, and green hues. While rubber mulch does not kill weeds, it does create a barrier between the soil and the growth of new weeds. Choosing a color enhanced mulch can greatly compliment the flowers, trees, and other plants in a garden and make the end result much more appealing to the eye.

In addition to colored mulch, recycled tires can also be used for playgrounds and other heavily-traveled outdoor areas. Playground mulch has undergone special testing to ensure its safety for children. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the concentrations of possibly toxic elements in playground mulch are drastically below harmful levels and should be considered safe. In fact, the White House playground is lined with black rubber mulch.

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