Turfing out fake grass: Resources on the impacts of synthetic turf on human health and the environment

Fake grass creates and exacerbates urban heat islands, causing detrimental effects on human health, and the natural environment. It can increase land surface temperatures by 40% or more, absorbing heat, warming air temperatures, hardening soil and thus increasing stormwater runoff. 

Microplastics are created both during its production and as it degrades. It kills nutrients in the soil and reduces biodiversity such as insects and birds. It is harmful to human health due to increased heat stress, biological pathogens, toxic chemicals and the ingestion of microplastics. Natural grass sequesters carbon, increases oxygen and keeps our cities safe and cool. 

So why do we keep using fake grass? 

Some say that it is better for the environment as it doesn’t require watering, but unlike real grass, it needs to be cleaned, sprayed with insecticides and fungicides, and regularly upgraded after wear and tear, increasing waste. 

Heatwaves kill more Australians every year than every other natural disaster combined. Now is the time to focus on reducing urban heat islands and greening our public spaces with natural plants that reduce heat. 

Concerned about heat caused by fake grass? Want to see it banned in public spaces in Victoria? Sign our petition

Sweltering Cities thinks it’s time we said goodbye to plastic grass in our public spaces, so we have gathered some resources and information for you here.

How fake grass impacts human health and the environment

Synthetic Surfaces in Public Open Space’ a study from the NSW Government.

‘Synthetic Turf carbon footprint, environmental, health, microplastics and biodiversity impacts.’

Literature review by local activist and Climate Action Moreland convenor, John Englart

‘Conveying the benefits of living turf – mitigation of the urban heat island effect’ by Hort Innovation, (2020).

‘Turf wars erupt over the use of synthetic surfaces in parks’ Sydney Morning Herald, October 2021

“Park users and residents seeking natural green space have been able to enjoy the cool, natural surroundings but now will be impacted by synthetic turf, through toxic off-gassing, smells, high fencing and the heat radiating from the synthetic field especially in summer”

Places where fake grass has already been banned

Victoria 

Darebin City Council have banned the use of synthetic turf on nature strips.

In Eynesbury township “Synthetic or ‘fake’ grass is not to be used in areas that are visible to public view” 

South Australia 

Adelaide City Council say that “Artificial turf became popular across Australia during the millennium drought when strict water restrictions were imposed, however it has since been criticised by environmentalists for its adverse impact on biodiversity.”

“Establishing and maintaining nature strips can be an excellent way of getting to know your neighbours, building a strong sense of community, and adding to the biodiversity and beauty of your street.”

City of Marion overruled their own decision to allow fake grass, saying “Many residents were unhappy with the decision, citing the heat generated by artificial turf and its broader environmental impact.”

Tea Tree Gully where “There was clear environmental evidence for not approving fake turf in the future, like a recent council heatmap which identified the hottest surface in the region was artificial turf.”

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