Artificial turf vs. natural turf – it is a choice that schools and communities face every time a new playing field is going to be built or refurbished. While it may sound like a first-world problem, choosing plastic grass has environmental consequences for the planet.
Touted as recyclable by the synthetic turf industry, the process is expensive at best, or unavailable in most countries. The problem lies in the many different plastics and materials that make up the turf itself and the infill used under the turf to prevent injuries. Both the grass and infill combine various plastics, rubber, and plasticised barrier coatings must then be separated before the recycling of any component parts can occur. Also, some companies who offer turf recycling are actually reusing and reselling it for use in dog runs and landscaping – which delays its entry into landfill, but is not actually recycling.
Saving water is one reason that many communities consider artificial turf, but cautions are issued by a surprising source – the “Water — Use it Wisely” campaign to promote ongoing water conservation in Arizona.
They list reasons why synthetic turf “may not be what you are looking for” including:
- It looks great – at first, but multiple layers of different material degrade from sun and friction.
- Adds to urban heat effect
- Needs water to clean off human liquids
- Surface temperatures can go as high as 200 degrees fahrenheit
- It is hard and can cause sports injuries
- It has a life expectancy of 8 to 20 years, depending on who is talking about it
- It is expensive and untested in desert conditions
- It’s not environmentally friendly and chemicals can escape
- It doesn’t take in carbon dioxide or transpire moisture
- It is not a plant!
If the lack of strong recycling options isn’t enough to choose plants instead of plastic to create sports fields or even residential landscaping, consider reading the full article at: