ATLANTA — Nature lovers and scientists have talked for years about the benefits of grass, plants and trees, but on Tuesday, a Georgia-based trade association said that artificial turf also helps the environment.
The Synthetic Turf Council says carpets of green plastic on a bed of shredded, used tires requires no irrigation, fertilizer, weed killers or pesticides. The fake grass in place across North America saves 6 billion gallons of water and eliminates the need for nearly a billion pounds of chemicals, the council says.
One sports field can save as much as 1 million gallons annually. Irrigation typically accounts for a third of all residential water use.
“Thousands of homes, businesses, golf courses, and public spaces have turned to synthetic grass to provide a lush, attractive landscape solution that requires minimal resources,” the council said.
The council said homeownerscan save 55 gallons for every square foot in a place as arid as Nevada. Georgia is the center of the industry because carpet mills in the Dalton area make much of it, generally by recycling plastic drink bottles. The recycling of the bottles and the 105 million tires crumbled each year to pad the carpeting add to the environmental benefits, the council said.
But the natural horticulture industry isn’t willing to give up any ground in an environmental turf battle.
“While there are situations when artificial turf might be an appropriate choice, scientific research documents the significant environmental, health and safety benefits of natural grass, which should be the first consideration,” said Mary Kay Woodworth, the executive director of the Urban Ag Council. “Natural-turf grasses generate oxygen and cool the air, control pollution and reduce soil erosion and purify and replenish our water supply.”
A major drawback to a carpet of reprocessed drink bottles is the heat it picks up from the sun in summer, which can soar to 50 degrees hotter than the air temperature. Many field crews irrigate to try to lower the temperature, which Woodworth says erases the claims of any water savings.
Plus, injuries from scrapes are two or three times higher on artificial turf.