IECA Pulse – Silt Fence Alternatives

By Jerry B. Sanders,CPESC posted Jul 18, 2023 09:19 PM


Exploring Sustainable Alternatives to Silt Fences for Erosion Control

Construction and land development projects often face the challenge of controlling erosion and sediment runoff, particularly during the initial phases. While silt fences have been commonly used for perimeter control, their environmental impact and limited effectiveness have raised concerns. In this blog post, we will explore sustainable alternatives to silt fences for erosion control, with a focus on biodegradable and recyclable options that offer a greener approach to protecting our ecosystems.

1. The Environmental Impact of Silt Fences

Silt fences have been widely used for their simplicity and cost-effectiveness. However, it is crucial to consider their environmental impact. Silt fences are typically made from synthetic materials such as geotextile fabrics and plastic stakes, which are non-biodegradable and can contribute to plastic pollution. When these fences degrade or become damaged, microplastics can enter the soil and nearby water bodies. Understanding these concerns highlights the need for more sustainable alternatives.

2. Biodegradable Materials for Erosion Control:

One of the most promising alternatives to silt fences is the use of biodegradable materials. These materials offer effective sediment retention and erosion control while minimizing long-term environmental impact. Jute mesh, for example, is a natural, biodegradable fabric made from jute fibers that can be used as a temporary barrier against sediment runoff. Similarly, coir logs, made from coconut fibers, provide excellent erosion control along stream banks and slopes. Straw wattles, cylindrical structures filled with straw or other plant materials, also offer effective sediment trapping and filtration.

3. Recyclable Perimeter Control Solutions:

Another sustainable option for erosion control is the use of recyclable materials. These alternatives minimize waste and contribute to a circular economy. Recycled plastic mesh is a versatile option that can provide similar erosion control benefits to traditional silt fences. It offers durability, strength, and the advantage of being recyclable after use. By incorporating recycled materials into erosion control measures, we reduce the demand for new plastics and contribute to a more sustainable construction industry.

4. Innovative Techniques: Green Walls and Terracing:

Beyond traditional perimeter controls, innovative techniques can provide sustainable erosion control solutions. Green walls, also known as vegetative or living walls, involve using vegetation to create a natural barrier against sediment runoff. The roots of plants stabilize the soil, while the foliage absorbs rainfall and reduces erosion. Terracing, on the other hand, utilizes retaining walls and steps to break up slopes, preventing erosion and providing additional spaces for vegetation to thrive. These techniques not only mitigate erosion but also enhance aesthetics and biodiversity.

5. Choosing the Right Alternative for Your Project:

When considering silt fence alternatives, it is essential to assess project-specific requirements, site conditions, and budget constraints. Factors such as soil type, slope gradient, anticipated rainfall, and project duration should be considered. Consulting with erosion control experts and environmental consultants can provide valuable insights and help determine the most suitable alternative for your project's needs.


Sustainable alternatives to silt fences offer a greener approach to erosion control, reducing the environmental impact of construction activities. By exploring biodegradable and recyclable options, we can protect our ecosystems and water bodies while ensuring effective sediment retention. As the construction industry embraces these alternatives, we move towards a more sustainable future, where responsible land development goes hand in hand with environmental stewardship.