Rubber mulch is a popular addition in landscaping, but it has negative environmental risks. Individuals on the r/gardening forum shared their thoughts about the product — including the good, bad, and the ugly.
The poster asked if other users had experience using rubber mulch in a landscape garden and if the rubber created a heat issue for delicate plants. But it’s clear that heat shouldn’t be the only thing this curious gardener needs to be worried about.
Rubber mulch is made from discarded tires, which number more than 290 million annually in the United States alone. Although this seems like a good way to use up an eyesore of a product that would otherwise rot in a landfill, there have been several studies indicating that the breakdown of rubber into the environment can release harmful chemicals.
One of these chemicals is zinc, which makes up about 2% of a tire’s mass. When the zinc is released into the soil, it can cause toxicity in plants and cause massive die-offs. Other heavy metals also leach into waterways and kill plankton and seaweed.
There have also been several studies indicating that rubber mulch isn’t effective in reducing weed growth, and it is much more likely to catch on fire than other mulch types.
Many other internet users have gotten into a pickle with rubber mulch. One user shared that they purchased a house filled with red-painted rubber mulch — which was nothing short of a pain to remove. Others have expressed concerns about the chemicals from the shredded tires leaking into the soil and causing permanent, irreversible damage.
Users in the comments section were quick to point out the drawbacks of using rubber mulch and the mistakes they had made in using it. “I bought a bunch for landscaping before I realized what a s***** idea it is,” one user shared.
“Absolutely not. Use bark. Please,” another user recommended.
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