There Are Better Options Than Using Tires in the Garden
Disposing of old tires is an environmental and economic challenge that has led to a variety of creative strategies for repurposing the treads into new useful objects including containers for children’s gardens.
While this does keep tires out of landfills, and it can be an inexpensive way to create a raised bed, there are some potential risks.
Tires contain aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and sulfur, as well as a high level of zinc. They also contain plasticizers and accelerators used during the vulcanizing process. In addition, rubber can also absorb heavy metals like lead.
As tires breakdown, these toxic substances leach out, contaminating the soil, the plants, and leaching through storm water into creeks and lakes. Over time, this could pose health risk for gardeners or those consuming the produce. Contaminants can be breathed in; they can be absorbed through the skin; or consumed.
Young Children are at Higher Risk
- They are closer to the ground,
- They are more likely to eat soil (dirty finger in the mouth, a vegetable not washed, a mud pie)
- They are more likely to have exposed skin (diaper only, shorts, tank top, barefoot), and
- Because of their small size, they are impacted by lower doses.
Alternatives for Raised Bed Construction
- ACQ pressure-treated wood, woods with natural rot-resistance, or other non-treated woods.
- Bricks, stone, concrete, or other recycled materials may be safe, if they have not been exposed to lead paint, asbestos, or other chemicals.
Simply mound the soil, with no structure for the border. This is less expensive, brings in no potential contaminants, is more flexible, and can be beautiful.
There is no need to use tires in the garden There are other economical, environmentally sustainable, options that have less potential for health risks.
More Information on Minimizing Risks of Soil Contaminants in Urban Gardens
- John W. Vick and Joshua Poe. 2001. Safe Container Gardening. Center for Environmental Policy and Management Environmental Finance Center: Serving EPA Region 4 University of Louisville Department of Sociology
- Linda Chalker-Scott. 2015. The myth of rubberized landscape. Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University.
- Carl Crozier, Matthew Polizzotto, and Lucy Bradley. 2015. NC State Extension Minimizing Risks of Soil Contaminants in Urban Gardens
- Duke Super Fund Research Center: Resources for North Carolina Community Gardens