‘Recycling turf in the US is just a matter of time’

A US representative of TenCate Grass have reiterated guarantees and recyclability of their synthetic turf products in a presentation made during the Martha’s Vineyard Commission public hearing on the high school athletic fields project.

Recycling of the synthetic field has been a central issue, as members of environmental groups note the lack of an existing facility within the US, and the amount of energy it would take to send a turf field overseas.

Mark Curran of Tencate Grass USA presented a plan to ship discarded synthetic turf to the GBN-AGR facility in the Netherlands which, according to his presentation, has the capacity to recycle 1,000 athletic fields annually.

He stressed that the entire process is monitored and certified by a testing, inspection, and certification consulting firm, Kiwa Consulting, a claim that is not completely in line with what GBN-AGR and Kiwa Consulting officials told Sportsfields.info in an article published here.

According to the local publication MV Times, Curran said that the turf included in the proposal is made of components that can all be recycled and put back into the production stream.

“We can guarantee that any field installed at MVRHS can be recycled through our process,” he said.

Curran said ‘our’ as both Tencate Grass and Greenfields, together with Domo Sports Grass and Edelgrass, participate in the GBN-AGR project. Last year, GBN-AGR Director, Eric van Roekel, told Sportsfields.info that the company it was eying several countries in Europe first to expand its footprint. Nevertheless, Curran revealed that a facility in the US is slated to be constructed within the next 24 months “somewhere down South.”

If true, this would be the second synthetic turf recycling facility projected for the US. In 2019, Re-Match founder Dennis Andersen said that the Danish synthetic turf company had plans for plants in Pennsylvania, West California, Illinois, Texas, Washington, Georgia and Toronto as part of their plan to build 21 synthetic turf recycling plants around the globe.

Recycling of discarded synthetic turf is important for this particular project. “We are situated right at the edge of a wetland area; that area is part of our education system. Finding products that could be fully recyclable from start to finish was really important to us,” Dean Sidell, associate head of school at the Tower School in Marblehead said.

Avoid greenwashing

Commissioner Ben Robinson noted “We have to be careful that there is always a desire to spin things in the best light. I think we have to be careful with greenwashing when we are talking about recycling,” Robinson said.

Commissioner Trip Barnes wondered whether any fields had been taken out of the US and recycled in the Netherlands, noting the immense cost of shipping that amount of material from the Island.

“Currently, none,” Curran said. “That is why we developed this product in the first place. Somebody has to start, and we are happy to be the ones to do so.”

Some fields that have reached the end of their useful life have, according to Curran, been repurposed for batting cages, paintball fields, and tee boxes for golf courses.

But because a recycling facility doesn’t currently exist in the country, the rest “sit in big yards in different parts of the country, like Pennsylvania,” he said.

“So the bottom line is, there is a small percentage probably that gets repurposed, and right now in the United States, the rest of it just gets dumped somewhere,” commissioner Doug Sederholm said.

This was the fourth hearing on the project. The next hearing is scheduled for April 1, and commissioners expect to hold one more beyond that.

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