Not too long ago, the call for a ban on artificial grass was made by the Consumers Association of Penang. This was largely due to the harmful effects of artificial grass on both the environment and our health. The use of plastic/artificial grass is rapidly growing (pardon the irony), and Malaysians often use it in our home compounds, recreational public areas and so on. The convenience of artificial grass is non-refutable, but it still comes with so many harmful effects that we as a collective, lack awareness of.
How Artificial Grass Harms The Environment
- Contributes to Flooding
In light of the increasingly common floods we see in Malaysia annually, one of the biggest harms of artificial grass is its direct contribution to increased flood risks. This is a given since artificial grass cannot absorb water, and is able to destroy microorganisms beneath the grass, thus harming plants and affecting biodiversity.
Around 50% of rainfall slides right off artificial lawns, leading to overflowing drains and ultimately, flooding. To put this number into perspective, almost every raindrop is absorbed by real grass.
Speaking of its harmful effects on the environment, artificial grass is particularly challenging to recycle, due to its make - the bonding of several plastics together. This unnecessary use of plastic also makes it non-biodegradable. Malaysia fortunately isn’t the only country waking up to the dangers of artificial grass. The United Kingdom government officials are being urged to introduce an Ecological Damage Tax for the import, sale and installation of artificial grass. This is in hopes to address and consequently reduce the impact of artificial grass.
How Artificial Grass Harms Humans
- Potentially Causes Cancer
Besides being environmentally harmful, artificial grass has also been the subject of hot debate speculating that it is potentially carcinogenic. In 2019, a Yale Study found that 52 out of 306 of the chemicals found in “crumb rubber”, a material found in artificial grass, were carcinogenic.
In the same year, the state of Washington revealed that 17 of the playgrounds in their state were shown to have dangerous levels of lead. Following this revelation, the United States Ecological Center tested the aforementioned crumb rubber under the artificial grass on playgrounds and found some places to have alarmingly high levels of lead.
- Causes Friction Burns
Since it absorbs heat, artificial grass can become dangerously hot and cause friction burns to children who play on it as a result. When air temperatures hit 25 degrees Celsius, the Loughborough University artificial sports pitch reached 65 degrees Celsius. You read that right - it was almost hot enough to fry an egg on! Real grass is natural, soft and therefore doesn’t cause friction burns or retain heat to the extent that artificial grass does.
How Real Grass Exceeds Artificial Grass
- Manages Pollution
While this might sound like a reach, real grass (on a lawn, for instance) not only provides fresher air for people, experts also claim that real grass can combat greenhouse effect. Especially in big cities or towns with larger amounts of air pollutants, real grass can provide a much needed increase in air quality.
- Absorbs Noise
If we thought the previous point might be hard to believe, let alone this one! Believe it or not, while paving materials bounce noise off of their surfaces, real grass in contrast, muffles those sounds.
- Thwarts Climate Change
Real grass can absorb moisture and carbon dioxide while producing oxygen and cooler air. It is self-sustaining, and also provides habitat for insects and food for birds. Natural flora like grass and flowers are part of a renewable cycle, which means they can also be used in the traditional compost process, therefore adding nutrients back into the soil they come from.
We have already exhausted our planet of more than it can give us. Replacing real grass with even more plastic is not the way to go forward. A concrete jungle can’t thrive without a little green to go with it. Let’s protect our planet.
Do you want to take a step towards helping the environment through composting? Reencle is a compost machine that allows you to reduce your food waste by turning it into nutrient-rich compost. If you’d like to know more, here are 5 Things To Know About Reencle Prime. We’d love to hear from you; reach out to us on Instagram or Facebook to ask us anything you’d like to know about composting with Reencle!