Reusing Old Tires As Garden Planters Is A Big Mistake. Here's Why

Gardens are a wonderful place to repurpose old items you no longer need into something useful. You can attract birds to your yard by flipping a tree stump into a bird bath, turning old corks into garden labels, or repurposing an old hose into a plant trellis. Not only is it a great way to cut back on frivolous spending, but it's an easy way to be eco-friendlier and more sustainable at home. However, there is one garden DIY that you should skip, and that is flipping old tires into garden planters. Creative gardeners will sometimes stack a couple of tires on top of each other, pour potting soil into them, and then plant their flowers or vegetables inside. While this idea looks clever, it can pose a risk to both your plant life and your health. 

As the rubber begins to break down, its chemicals slowly contaminate the soil. Old tires can harm the plants housed inside of them, and if you decide to grow vegetables or herbs in them, the chemicals contaminate the food. In addition, microplastics from the tires can be washed into the surrounding soil and contaminate the rest of your lawn every time it rains or you water the plants. While the intention behind the DIY is good, the end results are hardly ideal. Here is a closer look into why you should avoid using tires to fashion planters in your backyard. 

The dangers behind tire planters

While tires are made out of rubber, they also contain other substances. For example, they can include high levels of aluminum, sulfur, and zinc. They can also contain heavy metals like lead, and are coated in accelerator chemicals used during production. As time passes, these elements will naturally begin to break down and filter into the soil or vegetation near it. If you plant produce in tires, those contaminates eventually make their way into the food. However, the chemicals can also transfer onto your skin through repeatedly touching them while gardening, or even breathing them in via volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are dangerous compounds that are off-gassed from certain products, such as rubber tires or cans of paint. While a whiff here and there won't negatively impact your health, constant exposure can potentially be dangerous. For example, the compound benzopyrene, often associated with the unmistakable new tire smell, has also been linked to cancer. According to a study published by researchers at Imperial College London, long-term exposure to tire wear particles can damage your heart and lungs, increase your odds of developing cancer, and cause developmental and reproductive issues.

What to use instead

If you want to repurpose old items into planters or raised beds, forego tires for safer items. Luckily, there are a ton of other materials you can use in place of tires. For example, you can use leftover brick or stone from previous projects to create raised beds or small planters. If you don't have any you can repurpose, hop onto places like Facebook Marketplace and see if anyone is trying to get them off of their hands. 

You can also repurpose old containers you don't know what to do with. You can flip things like woven baskets or old bird baths into large planters, or even broken wheelbarrows or old crates. For smaller planters, consider using old teapots, pails, or jars. Just try to stick with using items made from natural materials. To avoid the same pitfalls as the tire hack, you want to avoid anything made from rubber, metals, or plastics.