Green light for Re-Match recycling facility in the Netherlands

The new state-of-the-art synthetic turf recycling facility of Re-Match Netherlands is being built in Tiel in Gelderland and will create jobs for 35 full-time employees. Once the cleantech facility is fully operational, it will provide the capacity to recycle more than 2 million square meters of synthetic turf pitches per year (280 full pitches) from the Netherlands and Belgium. In plastic fibre alone, this saves the environment from pollution equivalent to 400 million plastic bags – every year.

Solving the real problem with a validated process
Re-Match’s patented recycling process shreds, cleans and separates worn-out artificial grass and infill without adding neither water nor chemicals in the process which provides sand, rubber, backing and plastic fibre as clean and separated end products. While some waste handlers can separate the sand from the rubber, this is not what represents the real environmental challenge of end-of-life artificial turf – it is instead the rubber and plastic fibres that are the main CO2 contributors. Separating out these materials is where the real benefit can be found as just one artificial football pitch contains an amount of plastic fibre equivalent to 1,4 mill. plastic bags. So basically, Re-Match starts where other processes stop, as the company offers the only solution where more than just one end product can replace virgin materials in new production cycles.

This environmental impact has been validated by the EU and Re-Match is the only turf recycler to have received an ETV verification*. In addition, the Re-Match process is also ISO 9001 certified – thereby ensuring customers that the process contributes real recycling.

No nitrogen emissions
With the introduction of the zero nitrogen emission requirements, the new plant had to meet standards that no company had to meet before. “This was a huge challenge”, says COO, Dr. Stefaan Florquin. ”But that’s what we do at Re-Match. We push the boundaries of environmental technologies while contributing to maximum reduction of nitrogen and the minimum use of fossil fuels. The last step towards becoming a local artificial turf recycler in the Netherlands is now successfully completed with the approval of the environmental permit”.

Dutch factory as a blueprint for expansion
The factory in Tiel will be a state-of-the-art, digitized facility that will serve as a blueprint for many new recycling plants that Re-Match will build in Europe and North America. The factory in Tiel will be followed by factories in France, the UK and in the United States. “We are proud to announce the construction of the factory in Tiel”, says CEO Nikolaj Magne Larsen. “It is an important milestone for the company and for our employees who have worked hard to achieve this goal – and we look forward to offering the most comprehensive recycling option in the Netherlands”.

EU grant to help close the cycle
While sand and rubber from the recycling process is used as infill in new fields, the synthetic fibre has so far gone towards production of products such as picnic tables, support panels and parking posts. With a grant of 2,5 million euros from the EU Green Deal, Re-Match and its project partners are developing a process for the production of new yarns from recycled turf. There yarns can then be used for the production of new synthetic pitches, thus closing the cycle. “It is our mission to ensure full circularity of synthetic turf – and to us, this means that the plastic fibre is also used for production of new turf pitches,” says Nikolaj Magne Larsen.

Tiel welcomes Re-Match
“The municipality of Tiel welcomes this innovative frontrunner in synthetic turf recycling. Tiel wants to attract future-oriented companies that offer added value for our residents and our local and regional economy. Companies that provide the jobs of the future for our residents”, says wethouder Ben Brink of the municipality of Tiel. “With their advanced factory, Re-Match offers a good solution for a growing environmental and virgin materials problem. Re-Match has chosen Tiel because of its excellent connections with the rest of the country. That and the presence of a growing number of cooperating and sustainable companies, makes Tiel an extremely suitable location”.

Ideal geographic location
The new facility of Re-Match Netherlands, which currently has an office in Rijen, will be located at Panovenweg in the industrial region Kellen in Tiel. This is not only in the centre of the country, but also close to highway A15/A2, the Amsterdam Rhine Canal and only 45 kilometres from Germany, which also makes the location as efficient as possible in terms of transport.

The site where the factory will be built, covers 31.800 m2 and the factory itself will be 8.769 m2. It will reach a height of 20 meters due to a separation tower that will carry out the final part of the recycling process, resulting in clean end products – ready to replace virgin materials in new production cycles.

A responsible choice
At Sportbedrijf Rotterdam, a leading sports facility company, they look forward to continuing the good cooperation with Re-Match: “We are happy with this new cleantech facility. If you want to make a responsible choice for recycling artificial turf, Re-Match is a very good option. They are able to separate components for 99,5% in order to replace virgin material. And there are many reasons more that justifies choosing Re-Match.”

During the new construction phase, Re-Match Netherlands will continue to collect worn-out synthetic turf pitches. These will be recycled in the new factory as soon as production starts in Tiel.

“The Netherlands is the country with the highest square meters of artificial turf per inhabitant in the world,” says Nikolaj Magne Larsen. “And we are delighted to now be able to offer the Netherlands a truly sustainable recycling solution for its end-of-life turf”.

(*) Environmental Technology Verification

Evolution of high quality shock pad is ahead of its time

The new ProPlay-Sport20 passes all tests

The start of the new decade saw the ProPlay-Sport20 undergoing a update, this to ensure the world’s most popular shock pad is future-proof. 2020 turned out to be a year that was demanding in many ways, but the renewed ProPlay-Sport20 passed with distinction.

ProPlay-Sport20 is widely praised for its sports technical performance and high drainage capacity. As the shock pad is made of remnant foam and it can be fully recycled after end-of-use, this shock pad also scores well when the environmental impact of an artificial turf system is considered. This is one of the reasons why the demand for ProPlay-Sport20 has grown exponentially in recent years. In order to continue guaranteeing high quality and availability in the future, Schmitz Foam Products decided to revise the composition of the ProPlay-Sport20. The well-known and trusted 12mm thick layer of foam flakes is now combined with an 8mm thick foam layer. “This year we started laminating the ProPlay-Sport20 with a polyethylene foam that is specifically produced for Schmitz Foam Products. From 2021, the production of this foam layer is brought inhouse. By continuing to invest in our processes and products, we maintain control of the supply chain and anticipate the continuously increasing demand for ProPlay,” explains Ron Lokhorst, Export Manager at Schmitz Foam Products.

The adjustment is in line with the aim of governments and industries to produce smarter and more efficiently in the coming years in order to make optimal use of scarce raw materials. “Schmitz Foam Products had already introduced this approach in the 1980s. That is why we give cut-offs from the world’s largest foam producers a second chance by using them as the base material for our ProPlay. As our suppliers now start producing more efficiently, we have the obligation as a market leader to take the next step. This to ensure we stay ahead and can continue guaranteeing our deliveries.”

Sustainable field

The new ProPlay-Sport20 hit the market for the first time this year. One of the first Dutch artificial turf football fields to benefit is the renovated main field at Be Quick’28 in Zwolle. The field is filled in with TPE infill and sand that has been reclaimed from the previous top-layer. “The municipality has a clear policy on sustainable construction, and strives to reuse good materials as much as possible,” says Jos Florax of the municipality of Zwolle, when explaining the decision. The renovated top-layer was installed on the ProPlay-Sport20. “The contractor was asked to deliver a pitch that would pass the tests the Dutch FA, KNVB, has set for artificial turf pitches. Because we did not want to replace the existing subbase of sand and steagran, it was decided to use the ProPlay-Sport20 sheets. It turned out to be the only way for the field to meet those stringent KNVB requirements. If we had had to excavate that subbase and replace it, we would have violated our sustainability principles,” Florax adds.

The main field of Be Quick’28 is now the second synthetic turf pitch at the sports facility that is installed on ProPlay-Sport20 shock pads. Field number six, which had been transferred to neighbouring club PEC Zwolle, was renovated by the stadium club. The club will use this renovated field for its own youth academy. PEC Zwolle used the artificial turf carpet with TPE infill that had been removed from the stadium as the stadium field was converted to a natural grass surface. As the existing ProPlay on field six was still in good condition, it was decided to maintain it. According to contractor, CSC Sport, this decision allowed the field to deliver all the intended sport- and technical playing values, despite it being installed on a subbase that is different from what it was built on inside the stadium. However, the big gain lies in the fact that this decision allowed for adhering to the principles of sustainable construction, as set by the municipality.

Easy to handle for builders

The very first to notice the change in the ProPlay-Sport20 were the builders of the field. The new ProPlay-Sport20 is 25% lighter than its predecessor. “The summer period means show-time for us. That is when we are expected to deliver, irrespectively. Our builders are expected to build an artificial turf pitch under great time pressure and in hot summer conditions. The lighter the work is for them, the better the end result will be,” observes Arjan Emaus of De Sallandse United, the company responsible for the renovation of the main pitch. Thanks to the characteristic puzzle-shape pieces, and the lower weight, it is pleasant to work with the ProPlay-Sport20. “It requires fewer of our employees and it helps us to finish an artificial turf pitch faster.”

Futureproof shock pad

ProPlay shock pads come with a 25-year warranty, but the expected lifespan is a multiple of that. Since the manufacturer of the artificial turf has warranted the carpet for at least 12 years, ProPlay-Sport20 will help the municipality of Zwolle to respect its sustainability standards once again when the time comes to renovate the field again. “We can guarantee those 25 years because ProPlay has already proven itself in practice for this period,” says Ron Lokhorst. AFC IJburg near Amsterdam is an example of a club that decided to leave the existing ProPlay-Sport20 in place when its artificial turf pitch was renovated. “ProPlay has been installed since the early 1990s, and we are hearing more and more stories from clubs who are still satisfied with the sustained performance of the shock pad.” The fact that the new ProPlay-Sport20 now consists of two layers does not affect the lifespan. “Both layers consist of the same basic material and are thermally bonded together. We have been using this method for years to produce sheets from these remnant foam flakes and it has proven itself. Schmitz Foam Products is fully committed to producing shock pads, and we master that process in detail because we have invested a lot in the development of the method.”

The developments of the past year have, unexpectedly, shown the importance of continuous innovation when you have the ambition to maintain quality and quantity. COVID-19 also had its impact on Schmitz Foam Products, but due to their experience, preparations and cooperation with suppliers the company was able to proceed with their 24/7 production process and could rely on their stock to fulfil the worldwide demand for shock pads. “Based on, among other things, the forecasts of our partners, we build up stocks in the low season to ensure that we are structurally able to deliver with short delivery times,” says Lokhorst.

Jason Douglass named new SAPCA Chair

Jason Douglass, Group Director of S&C Slatter, has been appointed Chair of SAPCA for a two-year term. Jason, who was elected at today’s Annual General Meeting (15 December), will replace Andy Reed OBE in the role.

Jason is a highly experienced industry professional who has spent over 20 years in the sports construction sector. He joined the SAPCA Board as Chair of the Pitch and Track Divisions at the end of 2019.

Following a challenging year for the industry, Jason is looking forward to leading the association through the next two years and has revealed his intention to take SAPCA to the next level.

“I’m pledging my commitment, my time and my energy to do the very best I can in this very important role,” Jason said.

“2020 has been a year of change for everybody and we’ve seen different types of change – forced and deliberate.

“Among the forced changes have been webinars, video calls and virtual meetings, but it’s been interesting to see how some of these changes, which we thought were temporary at the start of the pandemic, may turn out to be permanent – and ones we’ll embrace beyond 2020.

“I’m really pleased how SAPCA has adapted to these forced changes during the year and how the association has addressed the challenges.

“The webinar programme has really been embraced by the membership and we also saw the SAPCA Technical Meeting 2020 attract a record number of people. I’m sure the membership would also agree that the greater emphasis on communications from SAPCA has been noticeable over the past few months.

“But there’s also an opportunity for deliberate change. I think we, as an association, can either sit back and let change happen to us, or we can implement deliberate change in response to the challenges we’re facing.

“Therefore, my vision for SAPCA is deliberate change and progression – built on the foundations of an already strong association.

“One of the areas of change we’ll talk about in detail with the membership next year is our board structure. We’re going to implement a new system of specific roles and responsibilities for each board member.

“We’re going to complete the transition to having skills-led roles and create a SAPCA board which has a dedicated Director for areas such as governance, environmental sustainability, business development and, crucially, for membership.

“Ultimately, I want SAPCA to be at the front of mind when architects, consultants, local authorities and estate managers are looking to procure sports and play facilities.

“I want each SAPCA member to feel they are in an advantageous position over competitors who aren’t SAPCA members.”

Jason’s appointment was welcomed by Andy Reed OBE, who will step down from his role as Chair after three years.

“I’m sure I speak for everyone associated with SAPCA when I say that I look forward to Jason leading SAPCA in its next stage of development,” Andy said.

“It will be a period of constant change from the very start and I think Jason will ensure a very strong strategic direction for SAPCA, which stems from his passion for the sector.”

Chris Trickey, SAPCA chief executive added: “I have no doubt that Jason’s considerable experience and knowledge of the sector will enable him to be a great champion for the sports and play industry, and that his ambition for the Association will certainly help to strengthen SAPCA during the next two years.”

GreenMatter wins Plastics Recycling Award 2020

 

GreenMatter signed up for the prestigious award of the Plastics Recycling Award Europe already in September 2019. After the event had already been postponed several times, the award ceremony finally took place beginning of December.

“These prestigious awards are intended to recognise and celebrate the achievements of the European plastics recycling industry. They provide an insight into current developments in the use of recycled materials, product design and innovative manufacturing. The Plastics Recycling Awards Europe 2020 received a record number of entries this year. The influx of projects, mainly in the Product Technology category, from across the entire value chain including brand owners, raw material producers and machine and equipment manufacturers testifies to a genuine commitment by all actors to making plastics circular,” said Ton Emans, PRE President.

GreenMatter received the award in the category ‘Building & Construction Product of the Year’.

GreenMatter is honoured to be named among the great innovators within the recycling industry and sees it as an important recognition from their colleague plastic recyclers that they are on the right track and have brought a beautiful concept to the market.

This award reinforces GreenMatter’s mission to reduce the growing artificial grass waste mountain.

Sustainability & Recycling of Synthetic Turf Systems : the Future

THE SYNTHETIC TURF INDUSTRY IS AT A CROSSROAD. WHY?
Public awareness of the damage caused by plastic waste in the environment means that manufacturing strategies that do not reduce the impact of production on the environment will soon become unacceptable. Of course, synthetic turf systems and shock pads will fall under the broad banner of plastic waste and now is the time for the industry to be proactive in embracing sustainability while working towards a more circular manufacturing process.

Reducing the industry’s reliance on new plastic materials is a priority. Reusing recycled plastics derived from old turf or other plastic waste, and eventually using a higher percentage of recycled content in new turf and shock pad products, will reduce the industry’s overall carbon footprint.

AN INDUSTRY UNDER PRESSURE
We are operating in an industry under pressure right now. Several key issues, such as adverse publicity about potentially harmful chemicals in rubber crumb infill and an ongoing microplastic debate, are just two of the issues. Sustainability and recycling are now hot topics for all businesses involved in this sector.

THE CHALLENGES FOR RECYCLING IN THE INDUSTRY
At the moment, recycling options are not mainstream or available on every continent. As an example, most countries in Europe with the highest volume of artificial turf pitches do not have access to a recycling plant.

We have seen many installers offering repurposing or reuse of materials as a solution, but this is just kicking the can down the road when, ultimately, the old turf becomes someone else’s waste to deal with. Old turf is generally end-of-use, so it does not get reused for sport. Its infill can be repurposed and even recycled successfully if cleaned, but it is perceived as low-value. These are just some of the barriers that are beginning to surface.

Targeted funding is a priority to incentivise private companies to set up recycling plants. More importantly, the funding of recycling in public procurement is fundamental to providing a pipeline for plants specialising in turning waste into valuable resources. These could be re-used in sports surfacing and, better still, in a push toward a closed-loop manufacturing process which would be the ultimate goal.

THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT BARRIER WITH LEGISLATION
Legislation in waste management is strong, just ask one of those brave companies that have tried to set up recycling plants in Europe. Unfortunately, legislation to force owners to recycle is very weak. Legislators need to be informed so that the correct legislation is applied. The industry needs to lobby and educate in this regard, otherwise the wrong kind of legislation will be applied.

CONSUMERS
Consumers are becoming savvier all the time. They will put their dollars into what they consider to be sustainable products. The pressure is applied from many sections of society, which will only get stronger, even in the short-term. The industry needs to get ahead of this. There are some positive signs it is responding to pressure, particularly in robust procurement processes.

KNOWLEDGE
Education is a priority, and trade organisations are working hard to get the message out that sustainability and recycling should be at the core of your business very soon or you will get left behind – or worse still – go out of business.

REDUCTIONS IN THE GATE FEE FOR RECYCLING
The cost of recycling is a barrier to it. With most things, it rings true that the higher the volume, the lower the cost. So we need key decision-makers and industry role models to push the recycling philosophy.

The location of recycling plants is not conducive to make installers use them as a viable solution to deal with end-of-use turf systems. Transporting filled, heavily rolled up turf thousands of miles is not good for the environment. Carbon emissions to mobilise the turf can be regarded as counterintuitive, so there is a necessity to get more local recycling plants up and running.

DIRTY RECYCLING
Mixed materials and contamination make recycling the plastic component difficult and costly, and the waste product unattractive to plastic recyclers.

In July 2020, we conducted a month-long survey on recycling in the artificial turf industry. Comprising of 32 questions, we had 118 people complete the survey, with at total of 3776 questions answered between them.

THE RECYCLING SURVEY – WHAT DO KEY INDUSTRY PLAYERS THINK?
We aimed to identify current limiting factors, such as the availability of recycling plants, the general understanding of recycling, and the available codes of practice to follow. We are sharing this information so we can tackle it as an industry, in a hope we can harness a more environmentally-friendly approach. As an industry, we can do better to educate all stakeholders, improve clarity on terminology, and try to encourage more codes of practice.

Consisting of 12 ‘role’ categories (Q1) we received data on all 8 territorial options (Q2), with Europe having the highest feedback at 43%.

76% of our participants were a member of an association or society in the turf industry (Q3).

Only 33% are aware of codes of practice and alarmingly 29% are members of bodies with no codes (Q4). 56% of participants follow a code of practice (Q5)

The key barriers (Q6) to recycling were Availability of plant, ‘Lack of a clear end-of-use for the materials to be recycled’, ‘No clear reward for recycling (such as in quality-scoring or in winning projects)’, ‘Cost’, ‘Legislation’, and ‘Lack of understanding’.

61% Agree in some form there should be a tax allowance to help offset the expense of recycling (Q7) with 80% selecting recycled material as ‘Average Acceptable’ to ‘Good’. (Q8).

60% of participants are dissatisfied to some degree with the availability of recycling options (Q10). Additionally, 60% of participants are presently dissatisfied to some degree with the level of recycling knowledge within the industry (Q11), with 70% dissatisfied to some degree with the guidance provided by sports global and national governing bodies. (Q12)

62% of participants are dissatisfied to some degree with the quality scoring rating during tender evaluation assigned to recycling. (Q13)

55% of participants end of use process is to reuse and 51% have also selected recycle. (Q14) 91% of participants are active in re-use to recycle to some degree, with 26% operating between 75 – 100% of reuse or recycling practices (Q15). 62% of participants are recycling artificial grass with 47% recycling infill materials. (Q16)

More encouragingly 61% are active in researching and developing their recycling process (Q17)

29% of participants are dissatisfied to some degree that turf is not being managed from site as agreed. (Q18) with 48% having no system in place to check. (Q20).

Local to countrywide transportation of turf to recycling facilities is acceptable. (Q19)

54% of participants have recently read articles in our industry on recycling. (Q22) with 51% dissatisfied to some degree and only 4% satisfied to some degree. (Q24)

Only 34% of participants have recycling plants locally available. (Q25)

86% would you support buying re-used/recycled infill and synthetic materials for new sports facilities. (Q27). 60% believe it is acceptable to pay more for recycled turf to some degree whereas 40% believe it is not. (Q29). 72% believe it is acceptable to pay more to some degree whereas 28% believe it is for existing site materials to be removed and recycled. (Q30)

51% of participants believe the field owner is responsible for funding recycling (Q31) and 57% believe the government plays the most significant role in changing the mindset towards recycling. (Q32)

It would be suggestive that there is a clear terminology issue in our industry between repurposing and recycling.

THE BAD NEWS
INVESTORS WILL VOTE WITH THEIR FEET
It is a fact that investment groups, private equity companies, and banks are now scrutinising where they invest their money. If your company is not on a sustainable footing with a good track record of reducing its carbon footprint, it might not be able to attract investment or it can even lose investors. Many corporations are actively working toward a neutral carbon footprint by 2030.

PUBLIC PERCEPTION IS AT AN ALL-TIME LOW
Synthetic turf has taken a beating in the recent past. Misleading media stories about the alleged harmful effects of materials in tire-derived infill materials hurt the industry. In Europe, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has firmly advocated banning the same infill materials due to a plastics strategy targeting microplastics.

THE GOOD NEWS
The industry is a hotbed of innovation and we are seeing some great innovation from larger suppliers, and contributions in a smaller context as well. The culture and philosophy of our industry are changing and we need to move quicker.

New materials will become available once they complete their R & D journey through to independent certification, We see many innovative infills that are organic and not classified as microplastics. Turf can be constructed of fewer components that can be separated easier when recycled.

New plastics which are more readily biodegradable will also become available.

Development of organic-based materials will become the norm, although the challenge will always be to prove durability and life expectancy, not only for safety but for performance, too. Many materials are currently in the pilot stage to prove long term stability under varying climatic conditions — this is not a quick process.

New processes will become more economical.

If we crack it, then recycling mixed plastic will be easy for everyone. Our industry could be an example of how to find solutions to recycling problems, which could benefit society in general.

OPPORTUNITIES
Where there is muck there is brass. It is a fact that waste management companies rarely suffer financial hardship and there are significant opportunities for many sectors in our industry to make money from dealing with its waste.

HIGHER VALUE OUTPUT
The key is to achieve high value from the synthetic turf system. Not easy as the turf component only makes up 11% of a typical 3G pitch. The plastic materials are however valuable and it is by them being mixed that realising that value is difficult. Infill materials can be cleaned and following some testing can be resold within the industry in a truly circular fashion or downcycled to other applications.

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Innovation will solve some of these aforementioned problems and the brightest leaders in the industry will succeed. This will result in less resource-hungry manufacturing, less energy, less carbon – setting a standard for the future of the industry.

Manufacturers should look at their supply chains and procure in as far as possible more sustainable constituents for the manufacture of their turf and shock pad systems. Further, they should identify what is in their product so recyclers have sight of what they are trying to recycle.

An efficient waste collection handling system needs to be set up. Traceability is paramount. The waste must remain ‘locally’ and be dealt with in the Country.

Technology for separating and cleaning fibres, sand, and rubber crumb exists. It needs to be applied to this sector.

This is an ‘all stakeholder’ problem. Shifting it to the funder, owner, installer will result in little or no recycling.

Public and private funding should be available for R&D in all sectors which would lead to a circular economy.

Designers and consultants should specify and select products by using sustainability as a matrix in their tender evaluation process and they should insist on recycling end of use turf systems in refurbishment projects.

Owners should be made more aware of what happens to the end of use turf systems, who is handling it, where is it going to be dealt with, is it being recycled and not illegally dumped.

All these things are achievable now.

WHAT WILL 2030 LOOK LIKE FOR THE SYNTHETIC TURF INDUSTRY?
The turf system does not emit microplastic particles into the environment.

Due to extended producer liability, you no longer own the turf you just ‘hire’ it for the duration of its use, then the producer takes the old one away to be recycled and you get a new one.

The new one you get is produced in a closed-loop circular manufacturing process – where the waste from the old turf is recycled into new products mainly used in sports!

The product is cradle to cradle.

The new turf comes with fully biodegradable infills that go back into the environment in a neutral fashion.

TAKING THE LEAP
If increased funding is required to take a step towards a more sustainable design and product, then whom in the process should provide the additional finance and should there be new government guidelines to enforce it? It will most likely be led by industry entreprenuers, however the investment level is huge.

We are currently in a period of optional additional costs for good practice versus competitive tendering, and a race to the bottom. Who will take the leap in quality scoring for recyclable, sustainable designs and products seriously enough to force change? Consultants can always include this as best practice, however, we should embrace this as an industry and push legislation as compulsory on design and installation.

It is certainly not impossible to follow a model of classification, such as what we see for fire classification, but should global governing bodies adopt this and start to incorporate it in their product reports? Would this filter down to be adopted by national governing bodies? Having a consistent approach to this would create less confusion.

We enter a period where there is a high number of refurbishments versus new builds. This is related to a high volume of fields being installed around 6 – 10 years ago. So hiring your pitch is a very feasibility proposal.

This ratio will only increase due to countries hitting their threshold of target pitch numbers and then more resurface projects compared to completed new builds.

So how do we go forward? We need a concerted effort from all high-level stakeholders to lobby the governments with the correct information to encourage legislation rather than best practice. This includes global governing bodies, national governing bodies, associations, and leading high volume frameworks that represent our industry.

This does work in tandem with continental legislation and must remain agile to change, for example, we currently await some industry-changing decisions on microplastics and we believe this is only the beginning of the evolution to greener sports surfaces

Article written by Eric O’Donnell, Managing Director at Sports Labs
With survey analysis by Niall MacPhee

Sport Group recycles synthetic turf in the future

The Sport Group is one of the world’s leading companies in the field of synthetic sports surfaces. With its subsidiary Polytan, the company has a high market share in the construction of artificial turf pitches and running tracks. Now the Bavarian company is also entering the recycling business. The newly founded subsidiary FormaTurf will turn old artificial turf pitches into new products starting next year.
Frank Dittrich, CEO of the Sport Group: “This makes us the only company in our industry to cover the entire artificial turf value chain and close the loop. We develop, we produce, we install, we maintain, we remove and we recycle”. The special thing: FormaTurf recycles almost 100 percent of an old artificial turf pitch consisting of the turf carpet, sand and rubber granulate. “We do not see an old artificial turf as garbage, but as a valuable raw material”, continues Frank Dittrich. The aim of FormaTurf is to turn the old material into new, durable products. To this end the company is building a new factory in Germany.
In recent years the number of artificial turf pitches in Germany has increased significantly. The service life of the upper layer (lawn carpet, sand, infill granulate) of a pitch is normally between ten and fifteen years. Many pitches have now reached the end of their lifetime or will reach it in the coming years. For this reason, FormaTurf anticipates a sharp increase in the number of recyclable artificial turf pitches in the coming years. This means that large quantities of synthetic material are returning to the resource cycle and can be recycled sensibly. FormaTurf can recycle almost all installed artificial turf systems and is not limited to taking back pitches installed by the Sport Group subsidiary Polytan.
The creation of FormaTurf is another of many steps in the Sport Group’s sustainability strategy. Through its subsidiary Polytan, for example, the company offers the first CO2-neutral artificial turf made of renewable raw materials. “We want to be the most sustainable company in our industry. We could not close our eyes to the issue of recycling. I am convinced that our overall concept offers the customer the best possible solution,” says Frank Dittrich.

https://www.schmitzfoam.com/sustainability-and-recycling

The continuous ProPlay loop of giving foam a purpose

ProPlay shock pads distinguish themselves in many ways, but one aspect that truly makes ProPlay stand out is its respect for the environment. ProPlay is made from redundant foams. Once these foams have been accepted for the production of this shock pad, they will remain in the system and will continuously be used to produce high-quality foam products. ProPlay reduces the need for virgin materials and helps prevent the unnecessary growth of landfills.

Schmitz Foam Products places the environment firmly at the top of all its lists. By taking remnant foams and using them for products that have a meaningful purpose, Schmitz Foam Products prevents tonnes of foam going to waste annually. The plants in Roermond (the Netherlands) and Coldwater (USA) use the latest technologies and skilled employees to separate quality foams and prepare these foams for use in shock pads for different purposes. It has been doing so since the late 80s. The various quality monitoring and guiding principles for this process have been adequately documented. Internal processes to adhere to these principles are verified regularly, most importantly by auditors tasked with verifying the compliance with ISO 9001 and the CE principles.

Likewise, the Schmitz Foam Products protocol for accepting ProPlay sheets that are no longer used for their intended purpose is well-defined and documented. These ProPlay sheets can be handed back to Schmitz Foam Products to grant these sheets a purpose again in other applications. ‘It is a responsibility we take as the manufacturer but it is also something we can and like to do without even worrying too much about its condition,’ says Ron Moors, Plant Manager at Schmitz Foam Products. ProPlay sheets that have been handed in will be cleaned and either reused for other applications or recycled for the production of new high-quality foam products.

Reuse prevails over recycle

The Schmitz Foam Products’ recycling philosophy aims to reuse whatever possible before recycling is considered as an alternative. The company will go to great lengths to see whether ProPlay sheets that have been reclaimed can still serve a purpose elsewhere. Tests are conducted to establish the performance and quality of the sheets and to determine whether they could serve another purpose in a sports field or, perhaps, should be used in multi-game areas or for other drainage or shock absorbing purposes. Only once it is established that this is not the case will the ProPlay sheets be recycled.

‘Recycling the foam is really a last resort as, generally speaking, the foam is still in good condition. However, sports governing bodies are very strict regarding the constant technical performance they expect the material to deliver for a particular sport. We do not want to put that at risk. Nevertheless, they are still good enough for other purposes like drainage mats for roof gardens, horse riding arenas or as cow mats, as the drainage capacity of the material is still very good,’ Moors explains.

Proper thing to do

Sending the sheets back to Schmitz Foam Products will be the responsibility of the company that possesses the sheets. Schmitz Foam Products can provide pallets to enable smooth shipping. ‘Schmitz Foam Products accepts the sheets at no cost. We believe it is the right thing to do in a time where the environment is carefully considered,’ Moors points out.

With the protocol in place since 2012, the option of returning ProPlay sheets to Schmitz Foam Products has, thus far, been used sparsely. ‘In light of the lasting performance of ProPlay sheets that can go up to 25 years, it is understandable that we have only been offered a few sheets for recycling. Most of the sheets we have produced up till now are still being used in artificial turf systems. Once they cross their 25th anniversary, I wouldn’t be surprised if they still perform according to the needs.’ As the recyclability of artificial turf is increasingly becoming an issue, Schmitz Foam Products have decided to actively pursue the ambition of giving foams a second opportunity by also accepting shock pads from other producers for recycling purposes. Provided the shock pad is made from cross-linked polyethylene it can be offered to Schmitz Foam Products to have it recycled for another purpose. ‘These shock pads are made of the same raw material that we use for the production of ProPlay, hence we can easily process them in our production,’ Moors adds.

Endless cycle

Giving used ProPlay sheets a new lease of life is something that can be done multiple times. ‘The performance degradation is very limited. That is why we are comfortable claiming that even once ProPlay is no longer delivering what is needed for sports, it can still have a useful purpose in other applications.’ Much of the ability to extend the lifespan of the foam can be attributed to Schmitz Foam’s long-time experience and extensive knowledge of polyethylene foams.

The quality of ProPlay sheets is unrivaled and well-documented. Don’t be surprised when it outlives the artificial turf carpet that has been used for the field. Even when it is decided to replace a sheet or the shock absorbing layer of an entire field, ProPlay can still have a meaningful purpose. By shipping those sheets back to Schmitz Foam Products you will lay the foundation of another period of unrivaled shock absorbing and drainage qualities.

Check out the short video on the website to get the full story in less than 2 minutes via https://www.schmitzfoam.com/sustainability-and-recycling

Webinar European development towards biodegradable polymers

On the 28th of October Senbis Polymer Innovations will co-host a Chemport Europe webinar on the market opportunities for innovations with biodegradable polymers due to a microplastic legislation proposal by the European Chemicals Agency. As an example case for the artificial grass market, Ten Cate Grass executives will elaborate their approach.

Limonta Sport obtains certification for 100% natural infill

Limonta Sport obtained the OK BIOBASE and OK BIODEGRADABLE certification from the TÜV Austria Institute for their GEO, a 100% natural performance infill.  Andrea Marcassoli, R&D Manager explains : “A certification based on European standards EN13432 and EN14995 relating to compostability confirms that GEO is 100% biodegradable in the soil, and EN16640 on which the tests were based, gives GEO the 4-star BIOBASED label, which is the maximum rating, as it is made up of 100% renewable raw materials. ”

Revolutionary and cutting edge, GEO consists exclusively of a mixture of organic plant material, derived from defibration of woody plants, that have been carefully chosen and processed with an innovative process. The result is a 100% natural and biodegradable infill because it is free from foreign materials, which ensures maximum performance and unparalleled athlete safety.  The organic material used is essential for playability as it gives the pitch biomechanical features that allow players to make fluid and natural changes in direction.  Geo adds to the technical advantages provided by Limonta Sport’s artificial turf, the comfort of natural grass, making it an ideal product for a pitch that maintains excellent performance, safety and endurance parameters over time so the athletes can focus on the game without adjusting their style.

That’s the reason why, since its introduction on the market in 2000, with over 500 installations, GEO has been selected by clubs like AC Milan, FC Internazionale, Athletic Bilbao, Spartak Moscow, Rubin Kazan, Astana Arena, Galatasaray and Worcester Warriors.

GBN AGR officially certified to recycle end-of-use synthetic turf

GBN AGR has received the first unique certificate for the recycling process of End of Life artificial grass  from Kiwa.

The certification process is conducted by quality assurance institute Kiwa. Kiwa is an autonomous global organization in Testing, Inspection and Certification. Kiwa is strictly independent and not involved in manufacturing, trading or other activities that might endanger the impartiality. Jan Klapwijk, Unit Manager at Kiwa, explains: “The certification is brand new, as the plant of GBN-AGR is the first synthetic turf recycling plant in the Netherlands. In the absence of any other synthetic turf recycler operating in the Netherlands, we had to define a new way to certify recyclers of synthetic turf. Therefore, we opted to write down all commitments GBN-AGR makes and the processes they promise they will follow. Compliance will be established twice a year.”

With operations having commenced earlier this year, certifying that GBN-AGR works according to defined processes and adheres to all steps defined is a vital step in the quality assurance process. “It is important that we are transparent and that our clients know upfront how their old synthetic turf will be processed, as well as them receiving confirmation the old turf has been processed the way it was intended,” says Director Eric van Roekel. “We are able to prove how many old synthetic turf fields we have accepted for processing, that they have been processed, and how much raw material we collected at the end of the process.”

The certificate that GBN AGR received guarantees the circular processing of End of Life artificial grass by GBN AGR. It also certifies the high-quality circular raw materials that are produced, such as SBR Rubber granulate, TPE Rubber and Infill sand.

GBN AGR offers full guarantee, transparency and sets the benchmark for circular processing and a consistent supply of high quality, circular raw materials.

A circular economy….. it’s necassary, it’s possible and GBN AGR does it!