Have you considered the broader environmental impacts of the playing surface?
There are many environmental issues that need to be considered when making a decision on a suitable surface. Rather than provide advice on which is the more environmentally sustainable choice, the information below is provided as a initial starting point and to help initiate thinking and discussion.
With many states of Australia including WA experiencing extreme drought and water shortages over the past decade, the heavy irrigation needs of maintaining natural grass playing fields has been questioned and alternatives have been sought. These include better management and use of water by harvesting rainwater for re-use, or using recycled waste water for irrigation. Another alternative is to install a synthetic turf surface, which, from a water perspective has a major advantage over natural grass for most sports (excludes wet-dressed synthetic surfaces).
Synthetic turf is often promoted as being a ‘green’ alternative to natural grass. The main ecological benefits of synthetic turf that are promoted are:
- Conserves water (research in the US has shown that each full-sized rectangular field saves between 1.8 million to 3.7 million litres of water each year).
- No mowing (mowing , especially large areas of natural grass, use fossil fuels and contribute carbon dioxide into the atmosphere).
- No pesticides or herbicides for pest and disease management are required (reducing harmful chemical inputs).
- Recycled materials are often used (rubber granules are often used in the base of synthetic turf as infill, these rubber granules are usually made from recycled tyres, keeping them out of landfill and reused sandshoe cushioning can be used for the shock pad).
However, there are other environmental considerations such as:
- water issues (i.e. stormwater runoff and leaching)
- carbon footprint
- emissions from materials manufacture and transportation
- end of life disposal
- the impact on local micro environments
- soil regeneration and dust stabilisation
- heat dissipation
- effects on local biodiversity and habit.
These issues need to be taken into account when considering the full environmental impact of each surface.