The polyester artificial grass top layer RSI SPORTS has developed in the past two years, has been awarded the Dutch Innovation Award. The choice for polyester allows the top layer to be recycled multiple times to produce new high-end artificial turf.
Grass2Grass is the first artificial turf that can be upcycled to new artificial turf for sports. “We’ve managed to, out of the thousands of different types of polyester, identify the one polymer that has a soft touch, is resilient and maintains its characteristics, even when raw material has been heated in an extruder. This has enabled us to produce a yarn, backing and coating all from the same material family. Once reclaimed, it is converted to pellets before it is re-introduced to the production process for artificial grass. Polyester allows for doing this multiple times,” RSI SPORTS managing partner Arnoud Fiolet says. Polyester is known as a material that can be used up to eight times before it starts to show degradation.
Answering the EU sustainability vision
The RSI SPORTS approach answers the EU ambition to achieve at least 50% of its sustainability targets set for 2050 by 2030. “Ultimately, Grass2Grass will prevent the world continuing ending up with heaps of discarded artificial turf that has no use any longer or which is not financially viable to recycle,” Fiolet continues. “Here in the Netherlands, we are blessed with having two companies that are capable of recycling discarded artificial turf, but for many countries, that will not be the case.” The bleak reality for these countries will be that artificial turf, at its best, is recycled to other, lower quality products. “With some luck, companies will manage to convert the old carpet to park benches, umbrella stands or similar low-end products. There is certainly a demand for that, but, ultimately, this means that artificial turf is down-cycled to a lesser quality product.” It’s a development that never fitted, nor serves an industry that is known for its research and development and ability to continually introduce new innovations.
Leasing artificial turf?
Grass2Grass is the first artificial turf that remains valuable to the artificial turf industry thanks to the raw material used. “I wouldn’t be surprised when this innovation will also spark new business models to exploit artificial turf,” comments Fiolet. The artificial turf veteran with close to 30 years under his belt refers to the product as a service-model, a concept that is already common in industries like consumer products, medical products and OEM products. “I envision lease-concepts whereby clubs and users are guaranteed a certain performance or durability, including the installation and maintenance, as well as removal and replacement of the top layer.” With subbases like shockpads or equivalents like the RSI SPORTS Panels lasting much longer than the top-layer which experiences the most wear and tear, lease concepts could provide virtually any club or municipality with a high-end artificial turf surface.
Daring to push the boundaries
Fiolet certainly doesn’t consider a lease concept for artificial turf being a pipe-dream. “Anything but! Many products are on lease already. Most artificial turf installations are currently decided upon based on the price for the initial product. The accountability of aldermen and club officials makes the purchase price the only criterion that is considered relevant which, ultimately, will have an impact on the delivery quality. Introducing a lease concept allows them to focus on quality and performance from the very beginning. This will certainly serve the sports community but also society at large, as I foresee more sustainable artificial turf systems being introduced.” Having gone through the development process for Grass2Grass, Fiolet knows that only the sky is the limit. The first few fields have already been installed in the Netherlands. “We’ll closely monitor their performance and will compare these with the data we will collect from fields we soon will install Spain and in the Scandinavian countries. All this information will help us fine-tune the concept and roll it out elsewhere in the world.”
Another feather in the cap
The Innovation Award the Dutch Government has handed to RSI SPORTS exemplifies the innovative DNA of the company. “RSI SPORTS has been the Innovation Partner of the European Hockey Federation for many years already. We were also the first to receive FIH recognition for our mobile Hockey 5s boarding, while our surfaces for the Athletic Skills Model have now been fully embraced by the Dutch Government in their quest to achieve a healthier and more active society.” With Grass2Grass now recognised as ‘the artificial turf of the future’ RSI SPORTS will continue expanding the capabilities of the product. “Our next goal is to produce a non-filled field for football that is completely produced from Grass2Grass. A successful introduction of such a field will answer all needs when it comes to artificial turf.”