Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

ARENA — Result In Brief

Project ID: 726618
Country: Estonia
Domain: Climate Change and Environment

The first onsite recycling solution for synthetic turf

Estonian SME Advanced Sports Installations has developed a first-of-its-kind onsite cleaning, recycling and replacement solution for synthetic turf on football fields. The company promises important cost savings, along with a 70 % lower environmental footprint.
The first onsite recycling solution for synthetic turf
To most football field owners, using synthetic turf instead of real grass can only sound like a bright idea: it’s easy to maintain, saves a lot of water and doesn’t require pesticides or fertilisers. But there is another side to the coin. At end of life, synthetic turf most often ends up on landfills or incinerated. In the EU alone, that’s 650 000 tonnes of rubber, sand and plastics mixed wastes piling up every year.

“There are, of course, a few solutions providing to manage old fields, essentially incineration combined with energy production,” says Roomer Tarajev, PR and media manager at Advanced Sports Installations. “But none of them takes place onsite. It would typically require eight to 12 trucks to transport used turf over thousands of kilometres from field to factory – which makes for an important carbon footprint.”

The company has an alternative: two trucks coming directly to the site, equipped with a unique technology that can clean, separate, dry and reuse all materials contained in old synthetic turf.

The ARENA system is very fast: in maximum 8 hours (four times faster than state-of-the-art practices), an entire football field can be rolled up. The rolls are then processed off-field, cleaned, renovated and rolled again, while the infill can, if required, undergo a separation process to recover rubber and sand. “The processed materials meet the highest quality standards and can be reinstalled or reused in many sports or construction applications,” Tarajev points out. The whole process can be completed in only seven days, that is, half the time needed with current replacement processes.

As synthetic turf is not just made of sand and rubber, the company also devised a solution to handle the turf itself, which is made of plastic yarn. “We have built our own recycling factory in the heart of Estonia, in the city of Põltsamaa. It allows us to process worn out artificial turf (free of sand and rubber infill) and produce agglomerate which can then be used by the plastics industry to replace expensive virgin materials,” Tarajev enthuses.

The first benefit of this approach lies in its environment-friendliness: The reuse and recycling of all materials in the synthetic turf reduce its environmental impact by 70 %. And as the process mostly takes place onsite, it also decreases CO2 emissions by 95 %.

The second benefit is the creation of an entirely new business model: the 5G leasing. Whilst sport facilities and municipalities previously had to purchase and replace their synthetic turf every 10 years, next-generation football fields will benefit from lease agreements.

“It is the first-time that a football field can be leased up to 60 months, as before ARENA we were just not able to remove installed turf and reinstall it with the same quality level,” Tarajev explains. The success of this formula has already started to extend beyond the sports industry, with temporary removable turf being used in various indoor halls for clients needing to use the surface for various purposes.

The next step? “We want to make the industry CO2 neutral. Even with our on-site technology we can´t avoid CO2 emissions, but we believe that CO2 neutrality could be achieved through a compensation mechanism such as investment into forest plantation, etc. The aim is to balance the stress to nature. This is something we believe has a future,” Tarajev concludes.

Keywords

ARENA, football, synthetic turf, recycling, leasing
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