Artificial turf is a manmade surface composed of synthetic fibers. It is used in place of natural grass on athletic fields, playgrounds, and other outdoor areas.
Over the past 50 years, artificial turf has become increasingly popular as an alternative to natural grass in many sports facilities around the world.
It carries with it some major benefits over natural grass, such as:
- Maintenance is less expensive. There are no fertilizers, pesticides, or water to maintain for a natural grass.
- No need to mow your lawn every week.
- The grass stays green all year long in most climates and requires no irrigation.
- Artificial turf does not attract insects or rodents, so there is no need to spray for bugs or use traps for mice and rats.
- It is a lot safer for children and pets (no chemicals like insecticides or herbicides needed).
Is Artificial Grass Bad for the Environment
Artificial grass comes with its own sets of pros and cons when it comes to its environmental impact.
We’ll let you decide if the pros and cons balance out.
Environmental Pros of Turf
Here are some of the reasons why artificial grass is beneficial for the environment:
Does Not Require Frequent Watering
The fibers in artificial turf are designed to absorb water and then release it back into the air. This helps keep the field dry and comfortable for players on hot days.
Artificial turf doesn’t need to be watered as often as natural grass because it is not growing. The blades of grass on a natural grass field continue to grow even when they are mowed. In contrast, the blades of artificial turf don’t grow. In fact, the fibers are designed to break down over time.
Artificial turf is designed with a special backing that helps it absorb water and release it back into the air. The backing also helps prevent excess moisture from collecting in the artificial turf.
Does Not Require Insecticides or Herbicides
The synthetic grass fibers are made from plastic or nylon. They are not living plants, so they can’t be damaged by insects or disease.
Artificial turf is not a food source for insects.
Because the artificial grass fibers are so tightly woven together, there is no space for weeds to grow through it.
Hence, there’s no need to treat artificial grass with insecticides, herbicides or weed killers.
You should remember that insecticides and herbicides are are designed to kill living things, including plants. By killing weeds and insects, they also kill the animals that eat those plants and insects.
Environmental Cons of Turf
Breeding Ground for Mosquitos
Artificial turf does not absorb water. It holds the water like a sponge and this creates an ideal environment for mosquitoes to breed, thus increasing the risk of malaria.
Made of Non-Biodegradable Materials
Artificial grass is made of plastic which will never decompose and this means that it will remain in the ground forever.
This is because artificial turf has a lifespan ranging from 10 to 20 years while natural grass can last for more than 50 years. The plastic pieces are going to be there forever making it impossible for them to decompose.
The plastic used in the production of artificial grass is usually petroleum-based, which means that they are contributing to air pollution as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
These gases contribute significantly to global warming as well as climate change, thus posing serious threats to our environment and our planet’s future generations.
Artificial turf does not allow vegetation or plants to grow underneath it because no organic matter can be broken down by microorganisms due to the lack of sunlight reaching the soil below the turf surface.
This prevents any sort of growth or regeneration of soil beneath it, which means that there will be no nutrients available for any plants or trees that may be growing nearby.
This makes artificial turf a very poor choice when compared with natural grass since natural grass allows some amount of soil regeneration under its surface.
While also allowing vegetation and plants to grow nearby providing shade for other surrounding plants and trees.
This includes those growing on top of artificial turf fields where these types of fields exist near other types of fields or forests where they might come in contact with each other in order to protect them from getting too hot during summer months.
How to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Turf
Let’s face it, artificial grass is too convenient of an innovation – it simply isn’t going away anytime soon.
The best we can do is to minimize its environmental impact by making conscious decisions.
Here’s how you can reduce the environmental impact of using artificial turf.
Buy Synthetic Turf Made from Recycled Polyethylene (Not Recycled Tires)
Synthetic turf is made from a variety of materials. Not all of them are environmentally friendly. For instance, some artificial grass manufacturers use recycled tires in their products.
Although it sounds like an innovative idea, the reality is that there’s more harm than good when you use rubber as a base for synthetic turf.
The problem with using rubber as a base material for synthetic turf is that it contains toxic chemicals such as lead and zinc, which can leach into the soil and eventually contaminate groundwater.
These chemicals can also be released into the atmosphere during installation and maintenance of artificial turf fields.
These pollutants are harmful to both humans and animals, especially marine life in nearby water bodies.
A more eco-friendly alternative to rubber is recycled polyethylene plastic (PE), which offers similar performance characteristics to rubber but without the negative environmental impact.
PE doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals, so it won’t leach into the soil or contaminate groundwater or air quality around your synthetic turf field.
It’s also recyclable at the end of its lifespan if you decide to replace your synthetic grass product at some point down the road.
Use Low-VOC Adhesives and Sealants on Your Artificial Grass Product
The adhesive used in installing artificial grass plays a big role in determining its longevity and performance over time.
The best adhesives are low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) because they emit fewer harmful toxins when they’re exposed to heat during installation or when they’re exposed to UV rays after installation.
High-VOCs have been linked to respiratory issues such as asthma attacks, so choosing low-VOC adhesives will benefit both your health and the environment around your home or business property where you install synthetic grass products.
Sealants are another important component of installing artificial grass. They’re used to protect the turf from UV rays and other environmental factors that can degrade the turf over time.
The best sealants for synthetic turf are water-based, which means they don’t release harmful gases into the air when they dry out.
Use Water Sparingly or Buy Drought-Tolerant Artificial Grass
When it comes to artificial grass, there are a lot of misconceptions about how much water it requires to stay green and healthy.
For instance, some people think that using synthetic turf is better for the environment because you don’t have to water it as often as natural grass.
The reality is that all types of lawns require regular watering, whether they’re made from natural or synthetic materials.
That’s because natural grass needs at least 1 inch of water per week and sometimes even more than that depending on your region’s climate conditions.
The good news is that there are now many drought-tolerant artificial grass products on the market today that require minimal watering throughout the year.
These products use advanced technologies such as moisture retention systems and wicking action to keep their blades green without using too much water in the process.
Use a Weed Barrier
Apply a weed barrier before laying down the turf. This helps keep potential weeds from coming up through the turf.
This way, you won’t have to use any weed killers that are considered damaging to the environment.
Use a Natural Sub-base
Use a permeable surface under the turf, such as sand or gravel, instead of concrete. This will allow rainwater to soak into the ground instead of running off and causing erosion and other problems.