Is Synthetic Turf Really “Greener”? A Lifecycle Analysis of Sports Fields Across the United States
Replacing natural grass fields with synthetic turf is a trend sweeping the nation. Synthetic field installation is associated with reduced annual maintenance cost, elimination of watering, mowing, fertilizer, and tripling the available hours of use. However, the use of synthetic turf comes with long-term environmental consequences. The concern of this revolutionizing trend is the crumb rubber infill used within the generation 3 synthetic turf. This infill releases harmful toxins when it degrades, polluting the surface water, soil, and air of the surrounding environment. A life cycle analysis of synthetic turf was used in order to determine under what circumstances the environmental benefits of a synthetic turf field outweigh the long-term environmental costs. In regions with extreme average annual temperatures, low annual precipitation, and aridisol soil, the use of synthetic turf is a valid alternative for natural grass fields. Through the use of these environmental factors when considering the installation of synthetic turf, each community will be able to best decided whether or not the short-term benefits of a synthetic turf field out-weigh their long-term costs.
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