• Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Finnish cities to explore re-use of end-of-life turf

Helsinki and five other cities in Finland, are about to study the possible reuse of synthetic turf. The cities also intend to survey recycling solutions available in Finland and Europe.

The study, due to be completed in 2024, is gathering experiences on the reuse of synthetic turf and surveying recycling solutions available in Finland and elsewhere in Europe.

The cities involved in the project are Espoo, Helsinki, Lahti, Oulu, Tampere and Vantaa.

Sustainability challenges

Finland has approximately 450 synthetic turf sports fields. The cities believe that there are currently no sustainable processing methods available for end-of-life turf, particularly if it is in poor condition, although Re-Match from Denmark and GBN-AGR have been processing end-of-life turf now for several years. Both companies separate the various components and sell these to various industries. Until recently, the yarn and backing were shredded before being converted to a compound that is used for producing kick-boards, shore protection or flower pots, to name a few.

Late last year, Re-Match has signed an agreement with Edel Grass for the supply of reclaimed polyethylene and polypropylene for the production of new synthetic turf or coating for the backing.

Challenges to the reuse of synthetic turf materials include the many plastic grades used and the other components contained in the carpets, such as rubber granules and sand.

“It will be interesting to see what the study reveals about the potential for promoting domestic commercial circular economy solutions”

In particular, the study will identify recycling solutions available in Europe, where specialised facilities already exist. More sustainable solutions to promote the circular economy of synthetic turf in Finland are also hoped for.

“It will be interesting to see what the study reveals about the potential for promoting domestic commercial circular economy solutions,” said project coordinator Oleg Jauhonen from the City of Helsinki.

There is also hope that the study will provide information to support decision-making on projects to remove synthetic turf in the coming years. Over the years, several companies have specialised themselves in offering such service. At least once company has been certified by Kiwa.

Landscaping challenge

The Finnish project is not unique but it will be interesting to see what the outcome could be to synthetic turf used in landscaping projects. The total sqm sold, exceeds the sqm of synthetic turf sold for sports. The downside of this is that, where most synthetic turf fields are owned by municipalities or large organisations that have the capital or corporate responsibility to monitor the removal and processing of end-of-life turf, it are the landscaping products that often end up in landfills. Most private individuals are unaware of the negative impact this will have on the environment. Thus far, now successful project has been implemented for the collecting and processing of discarded synthetic turf used in a landscaping project. Unfortunately, the scope of this Finnish study does include this either.

More to come

Alongside the cities, expert organisations involved in the project are the Finnish football federation Palloliitto, waste management company Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy, the Finnish Environment Institute, Turku University of Applied Sciences and the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency. The research will be carried out by Ramboll Finland.

Helsinki has also launched simultaneous pilot projects on circular economy solutions for used synthetic turf to find sustainable operating models for the recycling of decommissioned turf. The pilot projects started with a joint market dialogue event in December. The plan is to realise the pilot projects in the spring in connection with the renovation of two to four fields. The experience gained from the pilot projects will complement the nationwide study.

In addition to reducing emissions, the City of Helsinki aims to promote circular economy solutions and support the sustainable use of natural resources and materials. According to the recently updated Action Plan for the Circular and Sharing Economy, the city aims to find ways to promote the circular economy of plastics, especially in infrastructure construction, landscaping and the construction of sports facilities. The progress of the measure is accelerated by the national PlastLife project funded by the EU’s Life Programme, in which Helsinki is involved.

Helsinki’s vision is to be a platform for innovative and effective circular economy solutions that support the national transition towards a carbon neutral circular economy society.

Guy Oldenkotte

Guy Oldenkotte is senior editor of sportsfields.info and has been covering the outdoor sportssurfaces market and industry since 2003

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