When one thinks of rubber floors, one usually thinks of playgrounds…the soft and spongy mat at the local jungle gym. But what about sidewalks? In the past decade, rubber sidewalks have been growing in popularity due to their clever re-use of tires and protection of trees. Rubbersidewalks Inc., based in California, is the pioneer and leading supplier of alternative sidewalks. Their modular sidewalks consist of ultra-durable, rubber paving tiles (known as pavers) made of 100 percent recycled California tires. Rubbersidewalks are now found in more than 90 cities in North America including hundreds of installations in residential neighborhoods, universities, retirement homes, and government facilities.
Dan Joyce, Rubbersidewalks VP Sales and Marketing, told me that the company was formed in 2001 by Lindsay Smith who “rose to the defense of two dozen shade trees in her neighborhood that were scheduled for removal by the County of Los Angeles. The city claimed they were breaking the adjacent concrete sidewalks. “Seeking a solution, Ms. Smith discovered that the City of Santa Monica had conducted experiments with rubberized sidewalk pavers in the late 1990s. While the prototypes were successful, the manufacturer, a sports flooring company, had no intention of mass producing rubber pavers,” he said. “Ms. Smith lobbied the County of Los Angeles to consider the alternate system and successfully gained their attention.”
Ms. Smith subsequently approached other municipalities within southern California and soon generated enough interest to consider a business venture that could supply rubberized pavers to local municipalities. A $250,000 grant from the California Integrated Waste Management Board of Recycled Tire Product was Ms. Smiths’ seed capital to start her business.
Rubbersidewalks have numerous advantages that are easy to quantify. Trees are first on the list. Unlike concrete, Rubbersidewalks can be lifted for tree root maintenance, then replaced. Tree roots can be trimmed and maintained while roots are still in the “offshoot stage,” protecting the health and lifespan of the tree. And, as the company believes, “every tree matters.” From purifying the air to keeping water from the waste stream to beautifying neighborhoods, trees improve our quality of life.
Waste re-use is another comparable advantage over the status quo. Every year, Californians dispose of 34 million tires-408 million pounds of waste rubber. According to the company, each square foot of Rubbersidewalks uses the rubber of one conventional car tire. Each five square foot paver keeps five tires out of landfills.
In 2007, Michigan State University became the first university client when it installed 720 square feet of rubber sidewalks outside of the Brody Hall Student Center at their East Lansing, Michigan, main campus. Last year, in Hamilton, Ohio, a grant from The Ohio Department of Natural Resources allowed consumers to purchase Rubbersidewalks. While grants of this ilk become more available as the Stimulus and Recovery Act reaches Main Street, “green grants” are a natural evolution for Californians. Ever since the California Recycling Tire Act of 1989, local agencies offered rebates for users of recycled rubber. In fact, the company is promoting its next-gen interlocking pavement, Terrewalks, as an ideal product to include in city funding proposals during the Obama administration.
“Why Terrewalks are ideal for infrastructure funding,” the company believes, because they are an “old fashioned public works project, they directly benefit every person in your community, and offer multiple green and LEED features.”
I hail from coal country, Scranton, Pennsylvania, where winters are serious business. December through March is a blur of snowstorms, de-icing salt, paving trucks, and expletives about the constant need to shovel. So I was curious how non-concrete pavement fared in colder climates. Would they crack or disintegrate under the pressure? Jim Maxwell, Former Commissioner in New Rochelle, New York, said that his Rubbersidewalks have weathered the glacial season: “they have stood up well to the second winter with no discoloration from de-icers or gouging from shovels/equipment.” In the commercial markets, which are mostly new walking surfaces, installation of Rubbersidewalks Products is easier, cleaner, quieter and more cost effective than either poured concrete, or concrete pavers because of reduced labor in handling. The product is lighter weight than concrete pavers and there is no breakage.
They can withstand an arctic wallop, but do they feel like a trampoline? Or walking on pillows? Dan Joyce said the rubber pavers are just like conventional sidewalks: “Most people think that they are softer, which not the case. There are soft enough to prevent injuries but hard enough to satisfy all ADA requirements. Most people think our products are colorized concrete and don’t believe that they walked on a sidewalk made from recycled materials.”
To get a quote for RubberSidewalks in your city or property, or access a list of certified installers, visit www.rubbersidewalks.com.
Posted by: Margot Douaihy