STOP PLASTIC PARKS no more artificial turf – petition

You can help WEPA and the Natural Turf Alliance by signing the petition and circulating it to your friends and families.

In May WEPA joined the new Natural Turf Alliance –  which includes a wide range of community groups keen to halt the advance of artificial turf across Sydney’s parks and reserves.

You will probably be aware that there is growing criticism about replacing natural turf parks with synthetic turf to assist sports organisations to gain more playing and training hours.

A search of scientific papers in Australia and overseas reveals increasing concerns about the role of artificial turf in relation to:

  • Polllution of the local environment, including waterways, from cleaning chemicals, leachates from plastics and rubber and the escape of microplastics and infill crumb;
  • unsustainably high temperatures near and on fields on hot days (WEPA Committee member, Geoff Osborne, recently measured the temperatures at Blackman Park in Lane Cove and found that at 11am on a 28 deg C day the synthetic grass was hotter (at 56.9 deg C) than asphalt (54.7 deg C)!);
  • skin burns and other injuries to players who fall or skid on these surfaces;
  • potential health impacts as the turf is generally made from rubber tyres which contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals;
  • its ability to sustain fire (replacing natural turf which acts as a fire barrier) and produce toxic gases in bushfires;
  • its discouragement of the use of parks for unstructured pastimes such as exercise, picnicking, dog-walking and family play;
  • the essential privatization of public open space by focusing only on its usage by sports organisations
  • the creation of a dead zone for local birds and wildlife who usually like to dig for organisms, eat grass seed and generally forage and hunt in our parks.
  • Its short life span and the difficulty of recycling the product at the end of life; and
  • the fact that the product is based on the use of fossil fuels and is therefore inconsistent with objectives to move towards zero greenhouse gas emission.

The counteracting argument has been that we need more fields for sporting organisations and that natural turf wears out too quickly during this playing season – thus it is more economical to put in synthetic turf.  This type of argument wears thin however when we look at areas like the controversial Northbridge oval synthetic turf which lasted only 7 years out of a promised 10-year life and had to be replaced at huge cost.

The problems raised above have encouraged some scientists to relook at how to manage and maintain our natural turf fields to get better results.  A recent webinar, organised by David Shoebridge, included case studies where playing fields with natural grass have been upgraded using composted soil and appropriate grass species. These fields have proven to be more cost effective over a 20-year life cycle than a synthetic surface.

The Natural Turf Alliance plans to bring this research to the attention of our local city councils.  Representatives are also keen to participate in the review, recently announced by NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, who has asked his department to investigate sustainable alternatives to synthetic grass amid growing concerns about its environmental and health impacts.

You can help WEPA and the Natural Turf Alliance by signing the petition and circulating it to your friends and families.

Update: the Minister for Planning is investigating the use of synthetic vs natural turf for sports fields.  You can see WEPA’s submission to his inquiry here.

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