In the long run, using natural grass on pitches is cheaper than artificial turf

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 January, 2017, 12:17am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 January, 2017, 8:33pm

I refer to the report, “Health alert raised after tests on artificial turf” (January 9).

Many years ago, I was one of the governors for Hong Lok Yuen International School (now the International College of Hong Kong). We decided to retain our natural grass pitch by investing in new drainage beneath the pitch and equipment to maintain it.

As I recall, the project cost around HK$2.1 million – a considerable sum for a small school. As the grass pitch was a feature of the school and we believed it to be healthier and more natural for our primary students, the school board felt strongly we should make the investment.

The pitch was closed for months as the work took place. Opening day was joyous as all the children kicked off their shoes and ran onto the grass.

Grass, in our analysis, over the long run, is actually cheaper to maintain than artificial turf, which must be completely resurfaced every few years, depending on use. As a mother of two rugby-playing children, I have seen some very poorly maintained artificial turf. Some fields are so dusty that a fine film clings to the children’s bodies after playing on them.

It is unlikely that these pitches are being properly maintained, that is, they are not being resurfaced when they should be. This is what makes them more expensive then grass.

Improperly maintained, the recycled tyre rubber forms finer particulates. As tests are informing us, these are probable carcinogens in excessive levels, and this is a real concern. Maintenance standards should be enforced legally.

Also, it is a fact is that we have too few private and government sports grounds for too many users. This forces the artificial turf choice on organisations as their fields require constant use.

There are options – release land for sports grounds that use natural grass pitches, rotate these pitches, offer technical and financial support for the installation and maintenance of natural grass pitches.

At the International College of Hong Kong, only one company was willing to quote for the reinstallation of a natural grass pitch. We were told our project was simply too small. If many fields were installed and maintained, surely this market would become more competitive, bringing costs down.

I urge the government to review the maintenance schedules of all artificial turf in Hong Kong and close pitches which have not been properly maintained until they are replaced, hopefully, by natural grass.

Catherine LaJeunesse, Sai Kung