The crumb rubber controversy has reached two more cities. One is in Edmonds, Washington; the other is in Toronto, Canada.
In the first town, Edmonds, officials plan to install synthetic turf in a local school. Some parents have come out against the use of the crumb rubbers and cited anecdotal evidence in the media. Officials however, point to two studies by the Synthetic Turf Council and the U.S. Department of Public Health which say respectively that in 40 years there hasn't been any connection made between synthetic turf and ill health effects and that synthetic turf does not pose elevated health risks.
Brothers Arijeet and Rajvarun Grewal, students in Hanford, CA, helped forward a bill that would subsidize synthetic turf in California. The bill, AB 603, was introduced by Bakersfield assembly member Rudy Salas in February. If passed, the bill would grant a subsidy to those who replace their natural grass lawns with artificial grass.
Ari and Raj, students in Hantford at Pioneer Middle School and Sierra Pacific High School, thought of the idea and suggested it to Mr. Salas via a letter. Mr. Salas liked the idea, and now it's being put into motion. The brothers created a Facebook page for their project called Saving California Farms One Drop at a Time.
Ari and Raj agreed to speak with us in this interview, and Global Syn-Turf is honored to have them.
Where did the idea come from?
Raj: Last summer, we decided to redo our landscape. My brother and I became interested in finding out if we could install synthetic grass, which will help conserve fresh water. My father explained that synthetic grass is expensive, and he further explained that we could go for it if it was subsidized like solar panels. This encouraged us to propose legislation.
What motivated you to pursue this endeavor so seriously?
Ari: Living in the Central Valley, one cannot escape drought news. We learned that more than 60% of fresh water is wasted on lawn maintenance in California. Therefore, we wanted to do our part to conserve fresh water.
When did you realize that the potential of synthetic grass as a drought-tolerant option wasn't being fully utilized?
Raj: After researching extensively on this topic, we learned that many cities in California did provide rebates for homeowners and businesses that purchased and installed synthetic turf. However, we learned that there was not a state-wide program that provided state-wide incentives, given that some of the cities and counties do not generate much tax revenue and cannot afford to provide incentives to its residents.
What do you think will be some of the long term effects of the popular adoption of synthetic grass in residential areas?
Ari: Primarily, the adoption of synthetic grass in residential areas would help conserve a lot of fresh water that can be used for our Central Valley agriculture. It would also decrease the chances of another severe drought to occur in California.
Do you think synthetic grass has any advantages over other drought-tolerant alternatives, such as xeriscaping?
Raj: Synthetic grass and drought- tolerant alternatives both have advantages. They both help reduce the wastage of fresh water. However, grass is a part of our natural lives. Xeriscaping, on the other hand, takes away that naturalness.
On your Facebook page you say that "One day, water may lead to the division of California." Could you expound on that?
Raj: It is a politically hot subject. Several times in the past, a division of California has been proposed. More than any other political reason, water was the main issue. Recently, there is zero water allocation from the Sacramento--San Joaquin River Delta due to smelt fish. The majority of Central Valley residents believe that Big Brothers on both sides (North and South) control most of the legislative processes due to their population and, hence, influence and control of the flow of water.
On your Facebook page you say that you "would like to propose a clause in the bill allocating a percent of subsidy to provide vocational and trade education for those who may get negatively impacted so they can rebuild a better and brighter future for themselves and their families." Could you expound on this idea?
Ari: We wanted to make sure that our proposal does not negatively impact anyone, especially hardworking Californians in the landscape industry. Therefore, we proposed a portion of incentives to train them in synthetic grass installation.
On your Facebook page you say that popular adoption of synthetic grass will "bring economic prosperity to the state of California." Could you explain this a bit further?
Ari: In the beginning, lot of people were against Internet or online shopping, and now we can see how many jobs it has created in terms of software, e-commerce, and logistics (warehouse and transportation) jobs. Along the same lines, we strongly believe that the synthetic grass industry will also contribute in creating jobs (i.e. manufacturing, installation, and maintenance).
What has it been like working with Bakersfield assembly member Rudy Salas? Are there any lessons you can impart to us that you learned from working with him?
Raj: It was a wonderful experience. We have learned more about the other projects and bills that are being proposed in the Assembly Session. We have learned to become more active in our community.
Did you have a specific strategy for pitching the Bill to the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, Mr. Phil Ting?
Ari: It was a great pleasure to meet Mr. Phil Ting and asking for his support in person. We believe we have already reached the masses via TV and newspapers. We have also requested the local city council and county Board of supervisors to write to Mr. Ting in our bill's support. We also encourage the industry (including your company) to support and lobby our bill.
What was the experience like traveling to Sacramento to introduce AB 603? Did anything occur that was unexpected? What was the most surprising thing you learned about during your trip introducing the bill?
Ari: It was an amazing experience. We were honored and delighted to be invited by Mr. Salas to be a part of history in the making. We still have goose bumps from being on the assembly floor submitting AB 603 and seeing "Grewal Family" name on the notice board in the assembly hall. As a visitor you are just allowed to be in the gallery, but being there, on the assembly floor, just feels great!
Raj, according to a report, you are interested in pursuing a career in politics because of this experience. Is there a specific area of politics you are interested in?
Raj: I have not fully chosen my field; however, whatever job I do take, I would love to give back to my community. Going through this adventure has definitely opened my eyes to the endless career paths from which I could choose.
How does this experience fit into both of your long-term goals?
Ari: Our community has instilled in us the will power to give back to our community. Proposing this bill has given us the opportunity to help our neighborhoods. Also, we have learned that the sky has no limit in defining our own destiny.
Is there anything else either of you would like to talk about?
Raj: We highly appreciate you reaching out to us. Once again, we strongly request your company's leadership team to engage law makers in California (especially Mr. Ting and Mr. Salas) and support our bill....
The controversy around crumb rubber infill continues as a new in-depth piece in the USA Today was published today surveying the political dispute occurring between school synthetic turf sports field superintendents, environmental agencies, and consumer protection agencies.
On the one hand, the Consumer Product Safety commission is being criticized for publishing a headline in 2008 proclaiming that synthetic turf with crumb rubber infills was "OK to install, OK to play on," despite the fact that the tests they had conducted were not conclusive.
Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency has historically supported the use of crumb rubber infills in synthetic turf fieldsd in their effort to recycle old car tires. Due to recent political pressure, they have stated that the safety of such rubbers is not conclusive.
And on the other hand, schools are reticent to allow their turf fields to be tested for fear of negative publicity and having to pay to have their turf fields replaced, which costs more than $1 million, if the tests prove that the fields are harmful to children.
And on still another hand, the Synthetic Turf Council have touted the obvious benefits of synthetic turf, reduced maintenance costs and water savings, etc.
It seems that the debate around synthetic turf crumb rubber infill will just have to continue until conclusive tests have been completed....
The artificial grass of today is a far cry from what it was when it first appeared in 1966. Back then, it was used almost exclusively in sports fields. It was thick-fibered, and its primary purpose was to withstand heavy traffic from the cleats of athletes for long periods of time. Nowadays, the selection of artificial grass products is so variegated that they are used everywhere from playgrounds to veterinary clinics. Some varieties are visually indistinguishable from real grass and still others feel just as soft as the real thing on one's feet.
Indeed, artificial grass technologies have advanced so dramatically over the last few years that lawmakers who were once opposed to their being placed in residential settings are now supportive of it. Lawmakers in San Diego, for instance, proposed a bill this year that would permit residents in homeowner associations to replace their natural grass lawns with artificial grass. In the past, if homeowners installed artificial grass, many had to worry about fines and other penalties.
Despite these changes, however, the main advantage of artificial grass remains the same. It saves time, money and water.
Still, some are not convinced of artificial grass' eco-friendliness. On Houzz, for instance, the number one complaint is that artificial grass harmful to the environment by being a petroleum product and a contributor to global warming when overheating on hot days. Nonetheless, more evidence is surfacing which points to artificial grasses environmental advantages over natural grass. Most recently, it was proven that natural grass lawns as a whole emit more greenhouses gasses than the grass itself absorbs.
Pros and cons aside, there are some questions that are frequently asked by people who are new to the artificial grass world. Let's address those questions forthwith.
What is artificial grass? Artificial grass is a surface composed of synthetic fibers that emulate the look of natural grass. It is sometimes called synthetic turf, artificial turf, synthetic grass, fake grass, and plastic grass.
What are the advantages of artificial grass? It requires minimal maintenance, doesn't require water, fertilizers or pesticides, and looks manicured all year long with none of the hard work.
How is artificial grass used? Artificial grass is used everywhere from sports fields to residences. The most prevalent applications are:
1. On residential landscapes. Artificial grass is extremely popular these days among homeowners looking to save time, money and water that would otherwise be spent on lawn maintenance.
2. On sports fields, tennis courts, and putting greens. Artificial grass increases playing time and reduces maintenance expenses.
3. In pet facilities. Artificial grass is an ideal surface for accommodating pet activities. It is highly resistant to force and eliminates the negative side effects associated with real grass and pets, e.g. mud, dead grass, yellow spots.
4. In childcare facilities and playgrounds. Artificial grass is outstripping rubber and asphalt as a surface for children at play. It provides a cushioned surface, increases the facility's usability, and reduces grass stains and maintenance costs.
In short, artificial grass can be used anywhere for cosmetic or practical purposes. It's even been used for purely aesthetic purposes: in 2014, a Bay Area artist incorporated fake grass into her art installation at Et al. gallery in San Francisco. And in 2009, Black and White Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, presented an installation by artists Alina & Jeff Bliumis called "Be Happy," which presented a cutout composed of artificial grass of a woman with a 'Be Happy' talk balloon "as a metaphor for 'greener pastures,' the search for which entices people to migrate" -- (and replace their natural grass lawns with synthetic!).
As you can see, the applications of artificial grass these days are many and varied. Doubtlessly, it can be a useful addition to a number of situations -- confirming that, for some, the grass is greener on the artificial side indeed....