Synthetic turf, or “plastic grass” has gained popularity as an alternative to natural grass fields in recent years. Proponents argue for its convenience, lower maintenance costs, enhanced durability, and improved accessibility. However, it is essential to consider the broader implications of astroturf installations. SCCA and our allies around the county aim to explore the environmental, health, and community concerns associated with astroturf, advocating for a more sustainable and health-conscious approach to our recreational spaces.
Astroturf is primarily composed of petroleum-based plastics, which not only contribute to our reliance on fossil fuels but also pose risks to the environment. The breakdown of these plastics leads to the generation of microplastics, which contaminate our waterways and threaten ecosystems.
Additionally, the disposal of synthetic turf at the end of its life cycle exacerbates landfill waste and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, natural grass fields provide essential habitat for insects and pollinators, promote soil health, and sequester carbon.
Studies have highlighted the potential health risks associated with astroturf. The materials used in synthetic turf, including the infill and additives, may contain harmful chemicals and microplastics that can leach into the environment and pose risks to human health.
Exposure to these substances has been linked to various health issues, including cancer. Moreover, the lack of natural shock absorption in astroturf increases the risk of impact-related injuries, such as concussions, while the higher traction can lead to an elevated incidence of abrasions and joint strains.
Waste issues surrounding astroturf are alarming. Over 90% of plastic turfs end up in landfills, creating a significant solid waste problem. Each replacement of the system adds to the landfill crisis, creating a burden on our environment and future generations as each replacement of the system can weigh over 40,000 pounds of synthetic material per achre.
Regarding recycling, despite claims of recycling initiatives, the reality is quite different. Claims of advanced recycling facilities, such as the one proposed by Exxon in Baytown, Texas, involve burning the turf rather than a true recycling process. Moreover, the issue of PFAS chemicals embedded in plastic grass and microplastics remains unaddressed by recycling or landfill companies.
4 Statewide Bills that Address Plastic Grass
- Cost Analysis – UMass Lowell Toxics Use Reduction Institute
- How Taxpayers Get Fooled On The Cost Of An Artificial Turf Field – Forbes early on exposed how tax payers fooled that artificial turf saves money:
- The 100 Year Deception – NJ Advance Media Investigation
- Grass vs. Plastic Maintenance Costs – The Field Fund
- Toxic Chemicals Are Found in Blades of Artificial Turf – The Boston Globe
- Toxic PFAS Chemicals Found in Artificial Turf – The Intercept
- What’s in the artificial turf fiber? – Synturf.org
- A report on the state of the artificial turf field at the East Somerville Community School three years after installation –
- Green and Open Somerville
- Synthetic Turf Will Contribute to Greenhouse Gas Problems