Concerns About Using Recycled Tire Planters


Are old tires safe to use as planters?

Sharon White
Mora, New Mexico

Short-term, yes, tire planters are OK, although the soil in black tire planters will probably get hotter than most plants would prefer. Long-term, no, because the tire rubber will slowly biodegrade and release zinc, carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and other toxic compounds into your garden soil.

Toxics from tires are an even greater concern in some recycled products, such as rubber mulch and artificial turf, that are made from shredded or pelletized old tires. Here is an excellent report about the hazards of recycled tires, by Sarah Lane at Progressive Kid.

Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on .

8/7/2021 8:26:16 AM

Goodness! Yes, tires off-gas & can leach nasty, dangerous VOCs. That said, the other side of that is, tires hold their strength & shape for Many Decades, locking-in most of their VOCs, preventing them going anywhere. And, people only use cast-off old tires, which have been rolling down roads for some years, off-gassing most of the more accessible VOCs at the surface onto roads & driveways. Then, when they are coated with paint or cement, remaining VOCs are locked-in. Tires locked-into Earthships are packed solid with dry dirt, kept dry, so, any leaching down would be extremely slow; this is a good way to actually Sequester all those nasty VOCs so they do something constructive. The area is protected from almost all of the chemicals that might otherwise keep leaching due to weathering, into the ground & air around dump-piles prone to combusting. Many plants pull VOCs into their roots, both denaturing the manmade chemical compounds & holding the leftovers…therefore, planting food crops in them is a really bad idea, because you don’t want your root veggies or greens to be full of even the basic chemicals used to make tires, denatured or not. But ornamentals & shrubs would work fine. And who knows?…maybe some of the VOCs help prevent some fungal diseases in plant roots? Bottom line, coat the tires with a tough, weatherproof sealant; only plant non-edible plants in them.

Queen Bee
1/16/2018 1:48:24 PM

Is there a way to seal the tires, such as painting or coating them, to slow or halt the release of the harmful compounds? I have very wet soil in my yard, so gardening has to be done in raised beds. I can't afford the lumber to build that many garden boxes, to say nothing about my lack of skill as a carpenter. So if tires can't be sealed against the toxins, does anyone have any other ideas?

Queen Bee
1/16/2018 1:03:05 PM

Is there a way to seal the tires? For instance, painting or coating to make the release of harmful things slow or halted? I have very wet soil in my yard, so any gardens must be elevated, and I can't afford to build that many garden boxes! I can, however, find tires! Any ideas?

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