A synthetic turf top-layer produced completely from a single monomer is almost ready for installation in the Netherlands. With the turf, backing and coating being produced from the same raw material that hardly degenerates, it can be reclaimed and reused to produce new synthetic turf multiple times.
The new turf has been developed by Recreational Systems International (RSI) with the help of DSM NIAGA and NEN Consultants from the Netherlands.
“This new monomer is known for its ability to maintain its key characteristics, even when it is used as a compound multiple times to produce high-end products,” says RSI partner Arnoud Fiolet, explaining the decision to introduce a new raw material to produce synthetic turf.
“Polypropylene and polyethylene are degenerative plastics, hence their molecular composition is permanently affected once these materials are fed to an extruder. This leaves the industry with no other option than to use reclaimed PE or PP to produce lower-end products like picnic benches or mile markers. As a direct result, we continue introducing plastic into our society, while our aim should be to maximise the plastics that are already in the system. The Coca-Colas of the world recognised this already in the 80’s when they introduced plastic bottles that could be refilled. I don’t see a reason why the synthetic turf industry can’t do something similar.”
Fiolet goes on to explain. “Plastic is a vital ingredient to engineered systems like synthetic turf systems, as it guarantees the predictability of the system in terms of quality and degenerative behaviour of products produced in the same batch or according to the same recipe. We are of the view that there is nothing wrong with using plastic as an ingredient. It’s the single-use application that is causing trouble and that we would like to see changed.”
Hockey, tennis or padel
The first carpet will be used either for hockey, tennis or padel. “The low-pile, carpet that we tested passed all the mandatory tests for these sports. More importantly, it showed a resistance to fibre wear and UV-stability that surpassed carpets made of PE or PP, hence we are comfortable about introducing this surface to these sports.”
As the focus for synthetic turf carpets for sports like football and rugby is much more on skin-surface interaction, Fiolet expects that feedback from the trial will provide vital insights in fine-tuning the technology before this next generation of sustainable synthetic turf systems can be rolled out in these sports too.
“It will only be a matter of time before we will also succeed here. Together with consortium partners DSM-NIAGA and Nexteconomy, RSI has all the required knowledge in terms of raw material, carpet production and carpet use.”
Through its SBIR programme, the Dutch Government has pushed innovation to tackle the problem of waste in the synthetic turf industry. In 2019, RSI won the tender to take on this issue. “I am very pleased to say that we have now produced the first fully re-usable carpet less than a year later,” Fiolet concludes.