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STC issues synthetic turf recycling guidelines

May 23, 2013  - By

At the end of 2012, about 8,000 synthetic turf fields are being used in North America by a growing number of high-school, collegiate and professional athletes playing and practicing many different sports. Consider some of the facts the average useful life span for a synthetic turf field is 8 to 10 years and within the next five years, 1000+ field will be deconstructed.

However, what happens with synthetic turf once it reaches the end of its useful life? What options are available to avoid disposing of it in a landfill? One of the challenges the synthetic turf industry is working on is determining how best to manage the removal and disposition of synthetic turf once it has reached the end of its useful life.

As with any recovery and recycle effort, the diversity of component materials represents a technical and economic challenge. Synthetic turf includes a variety of polymers such as polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, styrene butadiene rubber and polyurethane.  Natural materials such as silica sand and calcium carbonate are also present. These materials must be separated in order to be recycled and the variety presents a unique challenge not seen in other recycled materials such as plastic bottles, carpet or plastic bags.

With this challenge, there is an assortment of technologies and processes being developed to reduce landfill dependence. These include processes for removing and separating to the extent possible turf components into materials that can be recycled or reused. They also include development of new materials for turf construction that are more environmentally friendly.

Due to the fact that converting synthetic turf to a recyclable material that is useable cannot be done at the point of removal, material must be shipped to different processing locations. The cost of shipping is one of the biggest challenges that determine the economic viability of a reclamation option.

Once the decision has been made to reclaim the synthetic turf, the materials must be separated. Infill must be removed from the turf. Further separation may be required to separate sand and debris from the infill.

After the synthetic turf has been separated from the infill, it can be broken down into materials suitable for post-consumer recycle content in the plastics industry. This can be accomplished in much the same way that carpet is reclaimed and recycled today.

Recently, the Synthetic Turf Council released its guidelines regarding the issues that pertain to removal, reclamation and recycling of synthetic turf. The industry is working hard to identify the best and most economical approaches to remove and process synthetic turf materials that have reached their end of life.

Go here to access the STC’s “Removal, Recovery, Reuse & Recycling of Synthetic Turf and Its System Components” guidelines.


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