India is quickly growing as one of the world’s largest producers of tires. With 164 operational plants in the country, India produces about 175.4 million tires a year. However, disposing of old tires has an immense negative impact on the environment. As discarded tires begin to break down, the chemicals and heavy metals found in the rubber begin to leach into the earth. These toxins impact the soil beneath the discarded tire, as well as any groundwater, posing a potential risk to any wildlife in the area. However, one non-profit is finding new and creative ways to repurpose old tires and meet a community need all at the same time.
Anthill Creations aims to “bring back play for all age groups by building sustainable playscapes, using contextual designs and localized resources and encouraging community participation.” Pooja Rai, who runs the non-profit, is an architect who has found an incredible way to reuse the 100 million tires India disposes of each year. So far, and with the help of over 800 volunteers, Rai and her organization have built 283 playgrounds, almost entirely made up of colorfully painted and repurposed tires.
Rai was initially inspired to create these playgrounds when she was just an architecture student in 2014. She accompanied a friend to make a donation at a local orphanage, and was shocked at what she saw. “Kids were playing with anything they could get their hands on,” she explained. And though the children were able to find joy in whatever they could find, Rai saw past that to a darker truth. “Play shouldn’t just be part of a rich, privileged kid’s lifestyle. All kids have a right to enjoy their childhoods.”
Rai’s playgrounds exemplify the perfect balance of art and play, as they often feature tire sculptures of cars or animals, as well as traditional playground equipment like swings and jungle gyms. “Animal designs are popular in smaller villages – they prefer tire octopuses, elephants, and horses,” Rai noted. “In a coastal village, the team fashioned an entire ship from tires. Children living closer to cities tend to go for cars, bridges, and tunnels.”
The discarded tires that are used are all cleaned and inspected for anything that may be pose a danger to the children. They are then painted with the designs in mind, and given a few holes to prevent any rainwater from collecting inside. These playgrounds are not only a unique solution to a environmental concern, but an incredible way to meet the needs of a community and begin introducing young children to the concept of upcycling.
“It has been a really gratifying and joyful experience to be part of Anthill Creations and to bring smiles and play to thousands of kids,” said Vikas Keshri, one of Anthill’s hundreds of volunteers. If you’d like to stay up to date on this non-profit and their future playground builds, be sure to check out their Facebook page!Whizzco