In a paper accepted for publication in the journal Waste Management, the researchers show that these ground tires can absorb excess chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides, preventing them from leaching into groundwater and contaminating the surrounding environment.
Golf courses are designed to improve playability, not environmental impact, says Jae (Jim) Park, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW-Madison and an avid golfer with a 6 handicap. But, as an environmentally conscientious person, Park is also aware of the unintentional side effects of the fertilizers and pesticides applied to the golf-course greens to keep them looking, well, green. These products contain chemicals that trickle into groundwater sources and contaminate the surrounding environment, he says.
"Because many greens are built near groundwater levels or wetlands," explains Park, "it is vital to consider the mitigation of environmental contamination caused by the pesticides and fertilizers applied to golf courses."
Used tires could provide a barrier, according to the new research led by Park.
The U.S. Environmental Protective Agency estimates that Americans discarded an estimated 273 million scrap tires in 2001, with only about 33 million being retread or recapped for additional use. Due to state regulations, most of these old tires were stockpiled, rather than dumped in landfills. Park says that storing this waste material in such a way creates several hazards: they collect rainwater, create breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and have a tendency to catch on fire.