The cost of artificial turf

The cost of artificial turf

An evergreen urban landscape or garden that is easily maintainable and is aesthetically appealing to the general public is a goal that Kuwait aims for especially nowadays at the forefront of pressing environmental issues such as; climate change, sustainability, self-sufficiency, net zero by 2030 and conservation efforts towards natural landscapes. However, some choose to take the short route and instead of investing in growing natural turf and designing a green space with a plant selection that is suited to the harsh environment that is faced in Kuwait, the general public  and local government choose to place artificial lawn as it presents the allure of low to no-maintenance cost and all year-round aesthetic appeal. These artificial landscapes can be seen at the various places, they can be seen on the roundabouts near Al-Surra and Jabriyah co-ops. They are evergreen and never faltering, but at what cost?. 

As Kuwait faces ever increasing heat waves and rising temperatures that reach up 50 °C and above there are raised concerns whether natural turf is environmentally or economically effective in a country that doesn’t has minimal rainfall and heavily relies on desalination plants for water . The cost and water consumption associated with turf maintenance is generally high. With turf irrigation in arid regions in the United States accounting for 75% of the total annual household water consumption (Ignatieva & Hedblom, 2018). Water conservation strategies would include the use of high drought tolerant species such as Tall fescue grass and perennial rye grass with both deep rooting potential and low consumptive water usage. Although, it is important to note that natural turf also provides several ecosystems services that include; oxygen production, carbon sequestration, air pollution removal through particle matter deposition and soil uptake, water runoff reduction, increased water infiltration, soil erosion mitigation, and an increase groundwater recharging (Ignatieva & Hedblom, 2018).

The replacement to natural turf, artificial turf  is made up of contains bits of recycled tires, known as "crumb rubber" among the turf blades to provide a cushioned surface (McCarthy2017McCarthy & Berkowitz, n.d.). Alternatively, the crumb could be made from virgin rubber such as thermoplastic elastomers which is more expensive, TP and ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDMmade from ethylene, propylene and diene and beneath the crumb could be sand as ballast (Kukfisz, 2018McCarthy2017). To put things into perspective, you need to picture that an average football field contains enough crumbs to make up 27,000 tires (Schwartz2008).The issue of crumb rubber being used on playing fields, on playgrounds, on urban landscapes has been examined and has been determined to possibly contain hazardous substances such as; metals, volatile organic compounds, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that pose potential health and environmental hazards (Celeiro et al., 2018; Kukfisz, 2018). 

Toxicants can be absorbed into the body through inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact (Zhang et al., 2008). These substances can be carcinogenic and have been linked to cancer and leukemia cases (Celeiro et al., 2021; Kromberg, 2020Celeiro et al., 2018; Kukfisz, 2018). As, artificial turf on a day with an air temperature of 26°C in the early afternoon, can reach temperatures of 60 or even 80 °C sometimes (Celeiro et al., 2018; Daniele2014). It is comparably hotter than natural turf by 20 to 30 °C (Celeiro et al., 2018). Therefore, the exposure of outdoor crumb rubber surfaces to extreme heat conditions allow for the volatilization of these compounds and production of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic chemicals (SVOCs) which could be easily inhaled (Celeiro et al., 2021; Kromberg, 2020).  While, ingestion of crumb rubber material often occurs accidently or unknowingly, nevertheless it can be potentially harmful for children with pica behavior (Kromberg, 2020Bleyer, 2017). To minimize any potential risks from exposure to dust released by rubber crumb for users, it is recommended that one should shower and wash their hands aggressively after playing on artificial turfs, and avoid consuming any food or drink and not use clothes and shoes after the activity for everyday use (Daniele2014). Whereas, the environmental risks poses are a result of the periodic watering of artificial turf that is required the maintain its physical properties, which leads to the leaching of metals and hazardous organic compounds into sewage waters, groundwater and/or natural surface waters (Celeiro et al., 2018).

This presents a clear case against the use of artificial turf made of crumb rubber, where the cost of this evergreen dream at the price of health and our environment. There are alternative options,  for instance the use of synthetic turf that is  made of alternative organic infills that utilize cork and coconut or coir materials instead of crumb rubber (Watterson, 2017). The other option is to stop the use of artificial turf as an alternative to the natural turf and if natural turf is placing increasing pressure on Kuwait’s water resources, then all together to move towards a more xeric landscape aesthetic that is more suited to Kuwait’s environmental conditions.

 
 

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