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The Welsh Government is thinking about banning artificial grass

Oct 08, 2023

'There are quite worrying reports from a number of university sources, saying that the toxicity coming off artificial grass, if it's played on by children and so on, is quite alarming'

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Wales' minister for climate change has said that she would like to ban artificial grass. Speaking in the Senedd Julie James said that she "really wants to explore proactively" if artificial lawns could be banned.

Putting in artificial lawns has been increasingly popular in recent years because they don't have to be mowed and require very little maintenance. However critics say there are a wide range of issues with these lawns which are made of polypropylene or nylon.

Ms James revealed she was considering ways of using Wales' new law on single-use plastics to outlaw fake grass lawns after being asked about Swansea council using artificial grass as part of the city's regeneration.

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Plaid MS Sioned Williams asked the minister about artificial grass saying: "Artificial grass is made of plastic and other synthetic materials, which, despite the perception of being maintenance free, requires regular cleaning and has a life span of eight to 15 years, after which sustainable disposal can be challenging. Aside from reducing the benefits of natural gardens, using artificial grass carries other environmental implications, such as hindering the habitat of earthworms and insects, while the leaching of microplastics can harm wildlife.

"I wrote to Swansea Council, in my region, about this issue after being alerted to the fact that artificial grass had been used in the city regeneration work. They answered saying that this would not be used by the council in the public realm, even on a temporary basis going forward. So, will you commit, today, Minister, to following the good example of Swansea Council by committing to the banning of the use of artificial grass in spaces over which the Government has control, with the exception of sports fields?"

In reply to this Ms James said it "is a really important question for a number of reasons" and that "artificial grass really does have a very, very bad effect on the local sustainability of a large number of areas in Wales".

She added: "As you rightly said, there is a short-term focus on maybe it's lower maintenance, but, actually, weeds come up through artificial grass. It can be very difficult to clean, if an animal has been on it, and, actually, there are quite worrying reports from a number of university sources, saying that the toxicity coming off artificial grass, if it's played on by children and so on, is quite alarming.

"So, actually, I really do think we need to get a public information campaign going about why it isn't the short-term solution it looks like for people. I've also noticed a slightly worrying tendency for artificial hedges and pots and things. You only have to look at those after one autumn of rain to see that they've leached the colour out of them and they've gone into the environment."

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She then went on to say that she was considering ways in which they could ban the use of the grass like they had with plastic products. She said: "I think it really is an important issue. We will be looking at all of our guidance and working with our local authorities to make sure that it isn't used in any publicly funded space, but I also want to get a piece of evidence going to (a) do a public information campaign about the problems with artificial grass, and (b) explore whether our new single use plastics Bill. That gave us the ability to add in other plastics for banning, so I really want to explore proactively whether it's possible to do it through that route as well."

What are the problems with artificial lawns?

There are a long list of cited issues with artificial lawns. Several high profile public figures have spoken out against them including well wildlife advocate and Welsh TV presenter Iolo Williams.

The University of Plymouth has done research into the issue and says problems include:

By contrast real lawns have the following advantages:


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