Last Modified: April 1, 2024

Rubber Chippings for Garden

Uses, Benefits And Downsides

Garden bed of rubber chippings

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist


Have you ever thought about the material beneath your feet while walking on a garden pathway? Many have switched to using rubber bark for gardens. Made primarily from recycled rubber, these chippings can be used in different ways for garden surfaces.

However, they are also not without their share of controversy. While there seem to be some valid claims about their safety advantages, such as with recycled rubber paths or for play areas, the case for its use in place of traditional mulch did not hold up to our scrutiny. Let's take a balanced look at the pros and cons.

Garden rubber mulch with a plant and watering can. Jpg

Key Takeaways

  • There are four main types of rubber chippings, graded by size and processing method.
  • Common Applications: The fall safety and non-slip qualities are advantageous to certain uses.
  • Weed Control: There are some advantages when used as a ground cover.
  • Downsides: On balance, the downsides do not make rubber chippings suited as a garden mulch.

What Are Rubber Chippings Used For?

Before we look at the common use cases, we will briefly demystify the different types of rubber chippings commonly available and used. Then we will look at some of the uses and the advantages and disadvantages we found from our research.

Understanding Recycled Rubber

When we say recycled rubber, we're talking about the re-purposing of old tyres in the UK into decorative aggregates. Due to the reuse of old materials, it is considered to be more beneficial for the environment than the manufacture of new rubber for surfaces. This may be why most retailers claim the eco-friendly nature of their products.

Separating The Different Types

Rubber aggregate sizes in chipped crumb and granular. Png

(a) Shredded rubber (b) Rubber crumb (c) Rubber powder (d) Chipped rubber

Most all rubber chippings fit into four main categories, sorted by size and/or method of processing. Old tyres are first processed into large pieces, much of which gets further chopped down, to become 'chipped rubber'. From there, it is further reduced to make crumb and the powdered form.

Although the names can still vary a little, the main categories are:

Chipped rubber close up


Most of the online marketing points to the many benefits of using rubber chippings for gardens. Here are some of the most common uses:

Play Areas

Perhaps the most common use is for the shock-absorbent play surface which reduces the risk, and severity, of injuries when children fall.

Garden Paths

Due to their slip-resistant qualities when wet, they can offer protection when used for creating a safer, rubber garden pathway.


They can be used to cover soil for conserving moisture, controlling weeds, and regulating soil temperature. However, this is hotly contested. For further information, you can read more about rubber mulch here.

Equestrian Arenas

While not strictly a "garden" use, chipped rubber is sometimes combined with sand in equestrian arenas for a safer, more forgiving surface for horse training.

Rubber chips for play area

Benefits of Rubber Chippings

Organic mulch has been a mainstay of gardens since time immemorial. The use of recycled rubber has not been studied closely regarding its long term environmental effects. In spite of this fact, the following are commonly touted benefits.

Creating a Safe & Level Surface

Play areas and paths can benefit from the level, slip-resistant surface which can be created using recycled rubber, particularly during winter and after rain. It can also prevent muddy footprints in the wet.

Low-Maintenance, Durability

Unlike wood mulch, it does not rot. It is slow to degrade, reducing maintenance and making them last many years longer for protecting against weeds. However, they can be prone to fading as they gradually break down.

Aesthetic Appeal

They come in a range of colours, like blue, green or terracotta, which can add an aesthetic appeal to play areas or outdoor features.

Corner bed of plants and chipped rubber

There are many other, safe types of non-biodegradable mulches available for your garden or landscaping project. Check out them out!

The Disadvantages & Dangers

Nevertheless, there are studies highlighting legitimate concerns over claims they are non-toxic that are seldom acknowledged by those who have the most to gain. We go into more detail in our article focused on the use of rubber mulch. Here are some of the downsides.


For many, the earthy smell of wood or leaves is part of the gardening experience, rubber chippings don't provide the natural scent of organic mulches. On the contrary, in the heat, they can leach gases, like a tyre shop smell. This may be over-powering for some people.

Flammability Concerns

Rubber is flammable. When exposed to high temperatures or open flame, they can catch fire. It is absolutely not recommended in areas prone to fires, particularly wildfires.

Toxic Leaching

Over time, there's evidence that as they break down, they leach chemicals into the soil. While the risk is not well studied, it's something to be aware of, particularly used as a mulch.

Rubber chippings as mulch in a plant pot. Jpg

Installation & Maintenance

To lay rubber chippings, first remove any grass and smooth the ground. Dig out the necessary area to achieve the recommended depth. Make sure the area is covered by a weed membrane, laid to block weed growth and contain the rubber chips. Once prepared, spread the recycled rubber chippings evenly using tools like a trowel and rake. The depth varies based on use: playgrounds require thicker layers for safety, while gardens need less.

Need to work out how much rubber mulch your play area or mulching  project needs? Try our free calculator.

Longevity & Maintenance Tips

Rubber chippings are known for being longer lasting than organic mulches. However, they are prone to fading, so the occasional maintenance, like monitoring their colour and raking to maintain depth, can keep it looking in top condition.

There are other great options for non-biodegradable, long lasting surface, like slate chippings. One of the major benefits is the undisputed non-toxic nature of the materials.

Gardening tools and weed control fabric


In the gardening world, innovations like rubber chippings are still so new that they often lack the long-term studies required to really know how beneficial or not, they really are. They offer a longer-lasting, aesthetic choice for many needs, including play areas and pathways. But, there are many unknowns, and they do come with their pros and cons, especially, in our opinion, when used as a mulch.

So, whether you're looking to create a safe play zone for your children or merely trying to combat muddy footprints and a safer pathway for the less mobile, rubber chippings could be the solution for you. However, it's crucial to do thorough research and weigh up the advantages against the disadvantages to determine what's best for you.

Person laying a roll of garden rubber mulch chippings


What are the disadvantages of rubber mulch?

While rubber mulch is good in many ways, it has many disadvantages, such not enriching the soil like organic mulch does.

What do you put under rubber chippings?

It's advisable to place a weed barrier or fabric underneath to prevent unwanted growth and keep them contained.

What do you put under rubber bark?

Similarly to rubber chippings, using a fabric underlay is a good idea.

What are rubber chippings used for?

From play areas to pathways and garden beds, rubber chippings are versatile in usage.

Which is better rubber mulch or wood mulch?

It depends on your needs. For longevity and maintenance, rubber chippings wins. But if you want to enrich the soil and understand the environmental concerns, wood mulch has the edge.

There are plenty of other types of rubber chippings available for sprucing up your garden. Check out them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.