The Society of Garden Designers (SGD) has joined forces with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the Landscape Institute (LI) as the trio look to tackle the “extreme environmental damage” and “decline to wildlife” caused by artificial grass and plants.
The ‘Say No to Plastic Grass & Plants’ campaign is calling on homeowners, gardeners and garden designers to return to traditional laws or look for alternative natural solutions “to help cut down the pollution and ecological destruction caused by plastic grass and to create more habitats for birds, bees and other wildlife”.
Citing Google Trends, the SGD stated that interest in artificial grass surged during the pandemic, with a 185% jump in May 2020 compared to May 2019.
As reported in Pro Landscaper’s March 2023 edition, 29% of UK households are said to be weighing up the switch to a fake lawn, on top of an estimated 24 million (10%) that have already made the move.
The WWF Living Planet Report 2022 also found that globally, wildlife populations have plunged by more than two-thirds (69%) over the past 50 years with the UK ranking as one of the most nature-depleted countries in Europe.
The SGD campaign “aims to debunk the claims often made by manufacturers that these products are harmless and to encourage the public to use beautiful, natural solutions instead”.
SGD co-chair Lynne Marcus said: “Plastic grass is far from an eco-friendly alternative to natural grass. Covering your garden with a layer of plastic has absolutely no climate benefits at all. It will suffocate the soil beneath it, destroy all sources of food and habitat and have devastating consequences for microorganisms in the soil beneath as well as the bugs and birds above. Compare that to a real lawn where a vast ecosystem of organisms, microbes, invertebrates and plant life can thrive, helping both the food chain and biodiversity, and it’s clear that there is absolutely no place on the planet for these products.”
As part of the campaign, the SGD has produced a downloadable leaflet outlining the detrimental effects the products have on the environment and offers suggestions for ‘green’ alternatives including low-mow or drought-tolerant lawns.
The RHS hopes to inspire an approach that benefits people and planet. Mark Gush, Head of Environmental Horticulture at the RHS, explained: “Plastic grass creates a sterile, lifeless area in the garden which has been shown to harm earthworms, exacerbate flooding risk, contribute to the heat island effect, and shed tiny plastic pieces, known as microfibres, which are harmful to the health of animals and people. By adopting a planet friendly gardening approach to design, we can help to mitigate the impact of climate change and promote biodiversity.”
The campaign follows the SGD’s decision to ban advertising and sponsorship income from artificial grass and foliage suppliers in spring 2019 and the commitments the Society made in its Manifesto for Sustainable Landscape and Garden Design launched at the SGD Sustainability Symposium in 2022.
The RHS banned the sale of plastic grass at its shows in 2018 and as of 2022 artificial grass and plants were banned entirely from its shows, including those used for floor covering and stand dressings.