Is Artificial Grass Bad for the Environment?
Artificial grass sales are booming, and it’s entirely understandable. After all, you don’t need to mow or water it — or use fertilizers and herbicides. Drought-resistant and child-resistant, fake grass is a no-fuss cost-effective solution to a golf course lawn. Right?
Wrong. One of the main dangers of artificial grass is that it’s bad for the environment. It doesn’t provide food for living organisms and prevents helpful insects like worms from accessing the surface. Placing artificial grass on your soil prevents the biodegradation of organic matter like leaf and grass clippings which are essential for healthy soil.
Artificial grass might seem like the easy way out of months of dedicated lawn care, but you might end up causing more problems than you solve. With environmental campaigners calling for fake turf to be banned or taxed, let’s examine why artificial grass is so bad for the environment.
What Is Artificial Grass and What Is It Made Of?
Artificial grass is manufactured. It’s composed of synthetic fibers (mostly polypropylene or nylon), made to look like natural grass. Artificial grass or “Astroturf” was typically used in sports arenas. But, with recent unpredictable weather conditions, such as the megadrought in the southwest, more and more people are using artificial grass for their residential lawns.
The Problems with Artificial Grass
Artificial grass has many disadvantages, making it a poor choice for the environment. Some disadvantages you might be able to guess already — whereas others are a little less obvious.
Unrecyclable and Full of Plastic
Plastic is built to last for hundreds of years. Individually, the synthetic components of artificial grass like polypropylene and nylon can be recycled. However, in fake turf, the materials are bound together, making them impossible to separate and recycle. Inevitably throughout its life, little blades of artificial grass break off and eventually deteriorate into microplastics, harming helpful microorganisms.
Additionally, anything that can be recycled needs to be cleaned first. After you’ve finished with your artificial grass, it’s likely had the wear and tear of many a year. Soil and grit compact on the turf’s surface, contaminating it for recycling. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find a recycling facility that even accepts artificial grass.
A Larger Carbon Footprint
The entire process of creating, coloring, and transporting artificial grass releases excessive carbon into our atmosphere. Plus, removing a large area of soil releases all the carbon locked into the ground back into the atmosphere. In particularly hot weather, artificial grass can also overheat, making it unusable in warmer months.
No Benefit for Wildlife
Natural materials which feed soil organisms can’t filter down to the soil if artificial grass is in place. As grass roots grow and die, this organic matter is absorbed to feed soil life, but with artificial grass, there’s nothing to be absorbed. Soil is an essential part of the food chain, which animals like birds and other creatures rely on as their food source. Removing any form of biodiversity prevents useful pollinators and insects from thriving in your lawn and contributing to the natural order of things.
Fake Grass vs. Real Grass
The environmental impact of artificial grass is not one to be underestimated. We’re already experiencing a plastic crisis, so the purchase and demand of synthetic grass are simply adding to the problem, not solving it. Polypropylene’s global carbon emissions are estimated to be around 84 million tonnes, so by buying into the artificial grass market — you’re contributing. But, by getting your lawn-care regime right — like knowing when to mow it correctly — the maintenance of a real, natural lawn can actually be cheaper. It looks and feels nicer anyway.
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