If you are designing or rehabbing a playground, you need to consider the material that will be used on the ground around the playground equipment. Some people use stone or brick in this area. Others use grass or artificial turf. Each material has its place and purpose, but one that is particularly worth considering is mulch. Here are some pros and cons of using mulch as your playground base material.
Pro: It's natural and eco-friendly.
These days, it is becoming more and more important to choose building and landscaping materials that are eco-friendly and biodegradable. Mulch definitely meets these standards. It starts off as a waste product -- the wood that is produced when trees are trimmed and felled. If it does need to be disposed of, it will just break down naturally. You also don't have to worry about the pollution made during production as you do with any plastic-based material.
Con: It can stain.
If a child sits down around the playground or happens to tumble off the equipment onto the mulch, they may end up with dirty and stained clothing. Most mulch is dyed, and the dye is not that stable; it wears off. You can buy undyed mulch, which causes this issue a lot less. However, it may still get some kids dirty.
Pro: Mulch is affordable.
Mulch can be purchased for a lot less than other playground flooring materials like rubber mats and stone. Maintaining the mulch is also really affordable. You just add a little more mulch to the top! Some playground facilities just keep mulch on hand all the time so they can top off their own surface as needed. Other materials, like grass, take more effort to maintain.
Con: Mulch may not give the look you desire.
Mulch does have a distinct look. It tends to look a bit rustic and country-like. If this is the aesthetic you're going for with your playground, then it may not be an issue. But if you are going for more of a modern vibe, it will be harder to achieve that with mulch. Its appearance is less malleable than the appearance of grass or artificial turf.
Consider the pros and cons above before deciding whether to use mulch with your playground. You may also want to talk to a mulch company such as Watson's Tree Services-Soil & Mulch about their policies and the materials they offer so they can offer their perspective.