Since legislation disallowed the filling of landfill sites with old used car tyres, businesses have been clever enough to spot an opportunity and diversify into an area that was the domain of bark chippings – decorative mulches and playground floor coverings. But, given the choice as a gardener, which would you choose?
‘Rubber’ Bark Chippings
Well, it sort of depends on what you want to use them for. If you want a simple play area flooring that is capable of cushioning the blows of falling children from climbing frames and swings, then there’s no harm in choosing either. Rubber chippings will inevitably last longer because they don’t decompose and they are readily available in all sorts of colours.
However, this is perhaps where the benefits of ‘rubber’ bark chippings end. As a gardener, decomposing organic matter is not a concern – if anything, it is actively encouraged by gardeners. So from the point of view of enriching soil, it makes little sense to use ‘rubber‘ bark chippings in beds and borders and in other areas around the garden.
Bark Chippings as Mulch
Natural bark chippings also have the ability to hold water and moisture and they can release this back slowly into the soil during drier periods and prevent soil from running off during wetter periods. Rubber, by its very nature, can do neither of these things and whilst they may be able to prevent or inhibit weed growth, there is very little it can contribute as a mulch to topsoil to enrich it.
Given the choice, most gardeners would be better off choosing natural bark chippings from a sustainable and ethically responsible source. Whilst ‘rubber’ bark chippings may be suitable for children’s playgrounds, it must surely be better to use a natural product that has come from a natural source.