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Geography in the News: Is there anything green about plastic grass?

Vicki Woolven

10th August 2022

Plastic grass divides opinions. But what are the environmental consequences of opting for a low-maintenance clean and vivid green lawn?

With millions of households across the UK currently looking out of the window at a dead lawn, set to get worse as more water companies plan hosepipe bans, many people are making the switch from natural grass to an artificial lawn.

The quality of artificial lawns has come a long way in recent years, moving away from green grocers carpet or hard astroturf to lawns made polyethylene which is softer and more aesthetically pleasing, meaning that households often see it as a good investment, particularly if they have already tried to improve their garden using grass seed or turf.

Even the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the UK's leading gardening charity, have taken to social media to distance themselves from fake grass, and have challenged those companies claiming to have products endorsed by them...

Fake plastic grass was banned from this year's Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) events, including the famous Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year. The RHS said no fake grass would be allowed because of its damaging effect on the environment, claiming that real grass give lots of benefits for the environment, including absorbing carbon dioxide and creating a home for wildlife.

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The show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show - no artificial grass allowed!

So just why does it divide opinion so much?

Many argue that it is low maintenance and doesn't need watering - however certain types of artificial lawn are made from hybrid materials so do need watering.

There are concerns over the surface temperature - absorbing the heat to the extent that it is too hot to walk on during high temperatures.

Then there is the issue of microplastics. A report published by the EU in 2018 estimated that around 4 tonnes of microplastic, from artificial turf used on sport pitches across Europe, had made it into rivers and oceans.

Others argue that artificial lawns increase the risk of flooding due to their limited drainage capacity, and are as damaging as covering surfaces in impermeable tarmac or concrete, however research shows that this impact remains pretty localised.

Finally we can't ignore the impact on climate change and biodiversity. Manufacturing artificial grass uses fossil fuels therefore has a much greater carbon footprint that growing natural grass, but also it can't absorb carbon like a natural lawn, which is an important consideration as we try to mitigate climate change. The UK is already one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet, having lost around half its biodiversity since the 1970s, and replacing natural grass that attracts birds and bees, with plastic grass, will only make this worse.

Read the full story here -

Vicki Woolven

Vicki Woolven is Subject Lead for Key Stage 4 Humanities at tutor2u. Vicki previously worked as a Head of Geography and Sociology for many years, leading her department to be one of the GA's first Centres of Excellent, and has been a content writer, senior examiner and local authority Key Practitioner for Humanities.

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