5 reasons we think greenfield topsoil beats recycled topsoil

You might read our catchy 5 reasons we think greenfield topsoil beats recycled topsoil headline and think, ‘well they would say that’; but read on and find out the fertile foundation that underlies our opinion.

In these days of environmental awareness, the term recycled is usually perceived as a positive, with excellent green credentials.

But whether you are laying down a local park, an amenity area, a lawn or planting a border, all vegetation (plants, shrubs or turf) needs the right conditions to thrive. Anything less is, at best, a short term bonus, but at worst a total waste of money.

greenfield topsoil beats recycled topsoil

Let’s stick with money for now. The key benefit of recycled topsoil starts with price; it’s true it is less expensive per cubic metre than greenfield topsoil. So that’s one up to recycled if you’re view is short term.

Well, almost. It does have a place, in building up deeper areas of excavation. But here’s 5 reasons why you should specify – and test to ensure your supplier delivers – greenfield as opposed to recycled topsoil for that critical final eight or so inches.

1) Quality of Greenfield

A ‘greenfield topsoil’ has been tested to ensure it meets *BS 3882:2015. That means it contains an ideal mix of minerals, nutrients, water, organic matter, air and living organisms. Within that definition, you can then specify premium, general-purpose or economy topsoil, depending on the final use planned for the area.

Recycled Topsoils typically come from building sites or recycling centres, or may be imported. Many will contain glass, wood, food waste, and even sharp objects such as nails and even syringe needles. These elements are not removed as they fill space, but all inhibit the suitability of recycled topsoil to act as a growing medium.

Remember, as a landscape architect or contractor you are liable for any failure of turf, plants or shrubs from your initial planting to take; and any initial saving in the upfront price of soil you order can quickly disappear if weighed against the cost of replacements or reworking some months down the line.

BS 3882: 2015 ensures that each certified topsoil mix contains the correct pH level, to determine the required acid/alkaline balance; the ideal physical composition to help avoid compaction; the right electrical conductivity value; and the maximum level of stones permitted to aid drainage.

If you’re starting with a low-quality area that is popular only with weeds, and you add recycled topsoil as your top-level, then all you’ll succeed in sustaining is more weeds!

2) Efficiency

The imperfections in recycled topsoil mean it is heavier per cubic metre, on average. It is also more likely to clag and retain water and is more labour intensive to move around the site.

In contrast, good quality topsoil is light (comparatively), dry and easy to work with. Remember, time is money, so on a site of any significant scale, easier working quickly offsets the higher purchase price.

3) Environmental hazards with Recycled

These come in all shapes and sizes, including invasive plant species. Recycled topsoils will often include a proportion of imported soil, which can host spores and seeds of problem plants such as Japanese Knotweed or couch grass. Definitely not the finishing touch you want to add to your carefully landscaped area.

4) Lower eco miles

Beware of false economies when thinking ‘green’. Typically, top quality topsoil comes from local areas. In our case, from personally inspected and tested sites.

Recycled topsoil, in contrast, might have been imported or mixed with soil and waste cleared from brownfield sites in other regions. So the lower cost of recycled topsoil reflects a lower quality of product, not necessarily a lower transportation cost.

5) Sustainability

Topsoil is a finite premium resource. It must be managed properly to ensure we retain all the benefits it offers in the decades to come. That means it must be sourced responsibly and managed effectively, which adds a premium. But the true ‘cost’ of topsoil will come if we mismanage topsoil for future generations.

If you want to be clean green then use greenfield topsoil from Turfitt, or another responsible supplier: one you can trust for quality and responsible practices.

In time, there may be artificial alternatives – scientists are on the case – but in the meantime, we have to manage what we have responsibly.

Our topsoil has been ‘bunded’, or stored, for up to five years in order to manage the resource well and ensure soil-borne pests have disappeared.

Do you agree with our 5 reasons we think greenfield topsoil beats recycled topsoil?


If you have a specific requirement, i.e. creating a wildflower meadow, speak to us and we will custom mix the correct topsoil for you.

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