The first time I saw a playground covered in recycled rubber, I was a little surprised. I grew up when playgrounds were covered in dirt and grass and, yes, sometimes gravel. The kids with me were barefoot and I stopped them before they ran in to caution them that the black rubber would probably burn their feet so we best put on our shoes. They just looked at me like I was crazy and the youngest said “it’s not hot – look!” and grabbed a big handful and put it down her sister’s shirt. Sure enough, it wasn’t hot. I went in with the kids and was amazed at how soft it was and, when the youngest and most daring took her first of many spills, she just popped up almost like she bounced. No scratches, no hysterical crying, no digging gravel out of knees . . . I was amazed it took so long for us to figure out this fantastic way to recycle our old tires while keeping our kids safe!

It’s interesting to see how much or how little of a certain material is needed to provide a safe pad for a child to fall from and I found a table below that shows the difference in the surfacing materials.


While recycled rubber (followed by wood chips) provide the most protection for the least amount of product, it is also important to know that far fewer children suffer life threatening head injuries or broken limbs from falls that occur on playgrounds covered with rubber. Some parents have questioned if the “rubber mulch” is safe given that some of the raw materials used to make tires contain potentially hazardous chemicals. Both the EPA and the CPSC say the exposure to chemicals is virtually non-existent when children play on the ground rubber in playgrounds or on sports fields. The only time they say the material could be hazardous is if it were set on fire as the chemical compounds would then break down and could be inhaled. The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) highly recommends “rubber mulch” for playground surfacing in the “Playground Bible” it distributes to all playground builders across the country and makes available on its website.

Over 220,000 children on average visit the ER each year due to injuries received on playgrounds. Given the over-abundance of used tires we have going to waste in this country, it only makes sense to recycle it for good use protecting our children. If you have a neighborhood playground in your area or at your child’s school, advocate for this environmentally and child friendly playground surfacing material.


If your child has been injured, please call or click to discuss what is in your child’s best interest.

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