Eden Project installs plastic grass to stop children getting muddy

ザ・ Eden Project in Cornwall has installed plastic grass in a children’s play area to stop them getting muddy.

The garden is one of a number of organisations and public bodies laying artificial turf in what environmental campaigners say is an epidemic of plastic being laid across the UK. There was a surge in interest across the UK in buying artificial grass during lockdown, according to data on Google Trends.

The growing fashion of installing plastic in place of natural lawns comes as artificial grass retailers are making increasingly loud environmental claims about their products.

The latest development is artificial grass known as “air”, which manufacturers say is capable of purifying air pollution by oxidising organic components and malodours at a molecular level.

Campaigners describe this as greenwash, and point out that natural grass already “cleans the air” via photosynthesis, absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Grass also provides habitats for insects and worms, attracts birds that feed on invertebrates, and helps rainwater drain away.

Richard Dowling, a campaigner, said the speed and scale at which natural gardens were being removed and replaced with plastic, was “a disaster” unfolding. “This is something that is rapidly taking over, and we need to treat it as a disaster now. If we lose all our gardens, our wildlife – which is already being pushed out by intensive agriculture and pesticides – will have nowhere to go.”

イギリス has lost more of natural biodiversity since the industrial revolution than almost anywhere in Europe, a study by scientists at London’s Natural History Museum found. Dowling has launched a petition to introduce an ecological damage tax on artificial grass.

Carlisle city council – which says in its mission statement on climate change it wants to play a full role in protecting the environment, was recently criticised for spending £50,000 on a pop-up park that used artificial grass.

Somerset county council laid plastic grass on a roundabout and then sent an official to cut it with a strimmer.

The Eden Project confirmed it had used plastic grass in a children’s play area. Its mission statement says it is dedicated to improving collective understanding of the connections between all living things … fresh air, clean water, fertile soil, rich biodiversity.”

広報担当者は言った: “To ensure the safety of the children enjoying this temporary play area, we took the decision to use durable and soft artificial grass that will be reused many times over. Real grass, in this context, would become mud within a few hours and therefore would not have been sustainable.”

Research shows that plastic grass – which is most often made from a mix of plastics – polypropylene, polyurethane and polyethylene – increases the heat in areas where it is used. When it breaks down it can release microplastics into the environment, which are thought to be harmful to humans.

There is little data on the carbon footprint of artificial grass, most of which is manufactured in China and Vietnam and shipped to the UK. “It is a fossil fuel product,” said Charlotte Howard, a gardener from Wiltshire campaigning for natural gardens.

Howard says the boom in fake grass is being turbo-charged by social media influencers such as Mrs Hinch. Howard specialises in helping families in new-build homes whose gardens have poor soil as a result of developers stripping off and selling the top soil, leaving the garden with poor soil and no drainage.

“When I have gone in to remove artificial lawns the mess is horrendous. They often stink, and when you lift up the plastic grass you find a sea of dead worms," 彼女は言いました.

Howard said despite the claims of manufacturers, artificial lawns were not maintenance-free. Pet faeces have to be scraped off, the grass pile has to be swept, weeds creep through, pet urine causes bad smells, and the plastic eventually breaks down, 彼女は言いました.

Dr Robert Francis, an ecologist at King’s College London, is researching the ecological impact of plastic grass. “Artificial lawns meet the cultural requirements of ‘good’ lawns”, 彼が書きました. “Yet they do so at the expense of any remaining ‘naturalness’ and embodiment of life.”

He said his research had found artificial grass can increase urban flood risk because rainfall cannot drain away into the soil, leaving more of it to run off.

The Association of Artificial Grass Installers did not respond to requests for comment.