Artificial grass poses environmental problems | Letters to the Editor

At the Maryland Sierra Club Zero Waste, we applaud the recent Letter to the Editor (March 15) from Linda Coyle of the Multifaith Climate Stewards Alliance. In it, she addressed the original FNP article on the equity considerations of artificial turf playgrounds in schools and raised important questions about playground safety for human and environmental health.

We must point out the negative environmental effects associated with artificial turf, especially the problems associated with its disposal. Synthetic turf playgrounds have an average useful life of eight to 10 years. According to the Synthetic Turf Council (STC), an average pitch is 80,000 square feet, including 40,000 pounds of mixed plastic turf and 400,000 pounds of infill (usually tire scrap and silica sand). Based on an inventory compiled by the Sierra Club, there are at least 347 synthetic turf playgrounds in Maryland, 17 in Frederick County, with a total of over 67,000 tons of infill and plastic turf .

While some materials may be landfilled, an unknown portion of the millions of square feet of synthetic turf removed ends up in rural and urban stockpiles or dumped into the environment.

At present, the fate of this huge and growing amount of plastic waste and filler in Maryland and the country is difficult, if not impossible, to track. Annapolis lawmakers are currently considering a bill (HB131/SB321) that would require a chain of custody for artificial turf, from installation to use, repurposing, recycling and disposal. A publicly disclosed chain of custody will serve as a deterrent to illegal dumping of used synthetic turf pitches and an incentive for proper disposal.

As Mrs. Coyle rightly pointed out in her letter, plastics are increasingly threatening our environment. We urge proponents of artificial turf for schools to carefully consider the environmental costs of such pitches.

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