We’ve provided lots of handy tips and advice on choosing the perfect artificial grass and how to install it effectively. However, it’s time to address the elephant in the room… There has been a lot of talk in the media over the environmental impact of artificial grass. Sustainability is an important topic to us, here we explore how we can reduce the impact of artificial lawns on our environment as well as the steps that we are taking here at ECCO Products.
The artificial grass market has exploded in popularity and is now estimated to be a £2bn global market. This rise in popularity is due to the turf becoming more affordable and more aesthetically pleasing, often matching the look and feel of real grass. Plus, more recently with the pandemic forcing many of us to spend more time at home, sales have increased further amongst the rise of home improvements.
Pros and Cons of Artificial Grass vs Real Grass
The positives and negatives of artificial turf have been heavily studied in the media. Artificial lawns are recognised in contributing to the global decline in insect species by blocking access to soil lying below and not soaking up moisture or providing food for wildlife. The production process of artificial turf has also come under scrutiny for emitting carbon and fossil fuels, as well as the installation process through differing materials being used and the lack of water drainage in poorly made artificial lawns.
That said, there are also negatives to the use of real grass too. For example, real lawns account for one third of all residential water use. Water scarcity is a huge challenge that we are facing in the future with our growing populations, increasing irrigation and changes in global temperatures. Real lawns also require a lot of upkeep using machinery for mowing and often being treated with toxic substances such as pesticides. These chemicals can not only be harmful to humans and animals but can enter local water sources causing harm to marine wildlife.
The production of artificial grass has come on a long way since it first appeared on the market and there are some great advances in its sustainability. Many artificial lawns are now made from recycled plastics and can be recycled after use. They also have a long life-span, often over 20 years, and can benefit further from the harvesting of water runoff which can then be reused within the landscape. If you choose to purchase artificial turf, there are also some great ways to improve wildlife in other areas of your garden. Such as by providing shelter in hedges and flowerbeds, creating inviting habitats like log and leaf piles, or prioritising the planting of pollen rich plants for our buzzy bee friends.
How to reduce the environmental impact of artificial grass
Most of the research surrounding the environmental impact of artificial turf falls within the sports industry where artificial lawns are often used in place of real grass. FIFA has invested heavily in the research and improvements of artificial grass and some of their tips to reduce the environmental impact of artificial turf can be used in domestic settings too. For example, using organic substances as grass infills to weigh down the turf has a smaller impact on the environment. In fact, cork is one of the most environmentally suitable materials to use and benefits the countries of origin which may be reliant on the income generated from the farming of cork. The report also encourages the research of local recycling options for at the end of the turf’s life and to ask for evidence of where the turf is being disposed of. Their research confirms that the recycling of artificial lawns is much more viable in Europe and the production process is also much more regulated, however it is also recommended to ask for evidence of the supplier’s environmental certifications at the point of purchase.
FIFA’s research also revealed that the use of a shock pad under artificial turf can greatly reduce the environmental impact by reducing the need for a stabilising infill. When not using a shock pad the stabilising infill alone makes up half of the artificial turf’s weight and therefore dominates the environmental impact of the turf. This impact increases further dependent on the type of material used for the infill. Our Drainbase tile solution similarly reduces the level of excavation needed when laying artificial grass further benefiting the soil below and surrounding landscape through less invasion. Each tile is made from fully recycled HDPE and can be fully recycled at the end of use, or of course re-used with your next lawn! Drainbase further reduces the environmental impact of artificial grass by buffering up to 30 litres of water per m2, allowing rainwater to infiltrate into the subsoil gradually and thus counteracting the water drainage issues often associated with artificial grass.
Drainbase is just one example of our commitment to providing innovative landscaping products. Here at ECCO Products we focus on the quality and usability of our products whilst focusing on reducing the environmental impact that landscaping can have. In fact, through our existing products we return 800 million buckets of water to nature every year! Check out our video for more information on our future plans and commitments.