In the depth of winter an urban heat campaign on Fake Grass launches for Victoria

June 5, 2022 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

With an overcast sky and temperatures barely in the double digits a small crowd gathered beside the synthetic grass pitch at Clifton Park in Brunswick. This was the launch of the Campaign to Turf out Fake Grass in Victoria.

Climate NGO Sweltering Cities, which focusses on urban heat and solutions to mitigating and adapting to increasing urban heat, had initiated this campaign as a result of several meetings with residents in suburban Melbourne and a large heat survey that was conducted over the summer.

Sign the petition to Turf out Fake Grass addressed to Victorian Minister for Suburban Development Shaun Leane.

There was representation from a number of Councils at the launch.

John Englart, Convenor of Climate Action Moreland, spoke about the many environmental impacts of Synthetic turf: its origin in the fossil fuel industry, greenhouse gas emissions as it breaks down (methane and ethylene gases), impacts on biodiversity particularly birdlife, generation of microplastics that pollute the terrestrial and marine environments.

Neil Blake OAM, the Port Philip Baykeeper, with his cooler of tufts of fake grass and samples of microplastics, spoke on how synthetic turf breaks down and pollutes our local creeks, and the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers and flows out to Port Philip Bay where it becomes part of the ecosystem, is ingested by fish. As plastics break down, they adopt a rough structure which other toxic chemicals and heavy metals attach to. So microplastics become a vector delivering toxicity through ecosystems. When people catch the fish in the Bay microplastics and other toxic chemicals are ingested by humans. Remember this news article on the turf wars from April 2021 which featured Neil Blake?

Neil Blake OAM, Port Philip Baykeeper speaking on microplastics pollution

Local Coburg North resident, Tatiania Stephens, spoke of the successful local campaign to stop the conversion of a natural grass oval to synthetic turf at Hosken Reserve.

There was discussion how New South Wales Government in 2021 initiated a review of synthetic grass in public places with a consultancy highlighting the problems and issues and drawing up some guidelines in a report. One of its major findings was that Councils are not maintaining natural grass sports ovals sufficiently resulting in less capacity for sports play. These Councils are then choosing synthetic grass when they have failed to explore all the options with natural turf capacity. It is also poor use of grant funding that is often needed to install synthetic grass. There is evidence that lifecycle costs of synthetic turf sports ovals are three times higher than well maintained natural turf.

Victoria is still operating on a 2011 Sports and Recreation document which is well outdated and does not consider all the environmental impacts. This guide fails to incorporate best practice Triple bottom line decision making of all the economic, social and environment benefits and impacts of synthetic turf for sports. There has been over a decade of scientific research since this document was published.

The increasing use of synthetic turf in schools was also highlighted. The Victorian Education Department clearly should have guiidelines for schools before they make a decision to install synthetic turf. Artificual surfaces in school environments add to the urban heat in the school micro-climate and can affect children capacity to learn, as well as safety issues from direct contact on extreme heat days.

One of the recommendations of NSW urban heat researchers is that “Use of artificial grass should be avoided or restricted to areas with zero exposure to direct sunshine.” (Pfautsch S., et al Sept 2020) This study built upon the work of an earlier report on Cool Schools (Madden et al 2018).

Sign the petition to Turf out Fake Grass, and circulate among your networks. Look out for more events in this campaign as the weather warms up in Spring, later this year.

References

Eddie, Rachel, The Age, 18 April 2021, ‘We’re running out of space’: Turf wars heat up over synthetic grass https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/we-re-running-out-of-space-turf-wars-heat-up-over-synthetic-grass-20210413-p57itd.html

Englart, J (2021), Literature Review on environmental and health impacts of synthetic turf., Climate Action Moreland, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.28126.56646 https://takvera.blogspot.com/2021/04/literature-review-synthetic-turf-carbon.html

Lucy Fokkema, Lizzie Matkovich, Sean Perry, Martin Lambert, Brad Billett, (Ethos Urban), July 2021, Synthetic Turf Study in Public Open Space. Report Prepared for the NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment. https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Policy-and-Legislation/Open-space-and-parklands/Synthetic-Turf-Study

Madden, A.L., Arora, V., Holmes, K.A., Pfautsch, S. (2018) Cool Schools. Western Sydney University. 56 p. http://doi.org/10.26183/5b91d72db0cb7 

Pfautsch S., Rouillard S., Wujeska-K l ause A., Bae A., Vu L., Manea A., Tabassum S., Staas, L., Ossola A., Holmes, K. and Leishman M. (Sept 2020) School Microclimates. Western Sydney University, 56 p. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26183/np86-t866 

Sport and Recreation Victoria (Feb 2011), Artificial Grass for Sport Guide.  https://sport.vic.gov.au/publications-and-resources/community-sport-resources/artificial-grass-sport-guide

Sweltering Cities, April 4, 2022, Turfing out fake grass: Resources on the impacts of synthetic turf on human health and the environment https://swelteringcities.org/2022/04/04/turfing-out-fake-grass-resources/

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