Many play areas have soft fall surfaces made of recycled rubber tyres applied as small pieces of crumb (1-5 mm in size). The use of rubber crumb in playgrounds and synthetic sports fields has been around for over a decade, although there has been a recent increase in investment in this product to try and deal with the more than 48 million tyres reaching end of life every year in Australia.
Rubber crumb and the chemicals associated with these (e.g. metals, PAHs, tyre anti degradants), however, have been found in international studies to leach into waterways and cause harm to aquatic life. Limited information exists on the potential loss and impacts associated with local sites and with the Great Barrier Reef considered a sensitive ecosystem, a focus on this region was considered a priority.
As part of the ReefClean project, Tangaroa Blue Foundation and AUSMAP developed a source reduction plan to quantify the amount of rubber crumb escaping from playground surfaces, and work with councils to identify ways to reduce the loss of rubber crumb into the Great Barrier Reef.
The full report is available here.