Want to rip up your astroturf? You're not alone as environmental concerns grow
Once seen as a way to keep a tidy lawn without the effort, astroturf is dropping out of fashion due to concerns about its impact on the environment. The latest research suggests that more than half of people with the plastic grass in their gardens would like it removed. And almost the same amount of people would support Government policies discouraging the use of astroturf across the board - something that has recently been considered by the Welsh Government. The main reason for the tide turning against fake grass is the increasing awareness about its impact on the environment and wildlife. A total of 58 per cent of people surveyed by the insurance firm Churchill said they wanted to remove their astroturf, with 44 per cent citing its negative impact on the environment. Others said that it was impractical and had caused problems in their garden. A quarter said they had noticed an increase in water runoff patterns and drainage issues. And 9 per cent of people had noticed the presence of local wildlife and biodiversity decline. As many as 45 per cent would support policies or initiatives aimed at discouraging the use of astroturf in residential gardens. Dr Mark Gush, of the Royal Horticultural Society, said: 'Plastic grass is bad for the environment for many reasons. Climate change is caused by too many greenhouse gases in the air - such as carbon dioxide - and plastic grass contributes to this. 'Fossil fuels are used to make it, and it is also hard to get rid of - the fake grass usually has to go in the bin when it is worn out, and ends up in landfill. 'Alternatively, real grass lawns give lots of benefits for the environment, including absorbing carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, cooling the air, and creating a home for wildlife especially insects. 'Natural grass and flowers are part of a renewable cycle, so cuttings can be used to make compost, adding nutrients back into the soil.' Gush added: 'Plastic grass can't do any of this, and creates a sterile, lifeless area in the garden. Even worse, plastic grass can become extremely hot and it can contaminate the soil below it, which has been shown to harm earthworms. 'Plastic grass can make flooding worse and sheds tiny plastic pieces, known as microfibres, into the environment which are harmful to the health of animals and people. 'At the RHS we know sustainability is hugely important, not just for nature but for people too. Because of its harmful effects, we banned the sale of plastic grass at our flower shows in 2018 and it was banned from being used in any way in our shows in 2021. 'We suggest people look at the many habitats their natural lawns can provide, for example by leaving areas to grow long and flowers to grow up through the turf, they will be providing food for pollinators like bees and butterflies. 'We encourage everyone to use real grass and flowers in their gardens for the many benefits and enjoyment they provide us and the natural world.' The Churchill survey found that one in five of those who have or plan to install astroturf - at 17 per cent - incorrectly assume it is better for the environment. This is despite the majority - 61 per cent - understanding that astroturf doesn't allow for wildlife and biodiversity to thrive and can contribute to water run-off and drainage issues. This can impact outdoor spaces, particularly given most people's gardens feature flowers and plants - 71 per cent - and trees or bushes, at 63 per cent. Of those with astroturf installed in their gardens or outdoor living spaces, 25 per cent noticed more water runoff patterns and drainage issues. Most astroturf is made of plastic, a non-permeable material that can prevent rainwater being absorbed by the soil in the same way as natural grass. At the same time, 9 per cent noticed an impact on the prevalence of wildlife in their garden since installing astroturf. A significant number said astroturf is not aesthetically pleasing, with 40 per cent of those without it installed admitting they do not like its appearance. And one in two people - at 49 per cent - agree that astroturf negatively affects the overall aesthetics of residential areas. In addition, 45 per cent would go as far to support policies or initiatives aimed at discouraging the use of astroturf in residential gardens. Nearly half at 42 per cent of those with astroturf now say they prefer the look of real grass. For those considering buying or selling a home with astroturf installed, 50 per cent do not believe it adds any value to the property. Sarah Khan, of Churchill home insurance, said: 'While the low maintenance appeal of astroturf was originally enticing to some, particularly those with pets, rooftops, balconies or small spaces, our research shows the astroturf trend has fallen out of fashion. 'Astroturf's negative environmental effect is important to consider, especially given the large number of Brits that enjoy otherwise natural gardens, featuring plants and visiting wildlife.'