Artificial turf, used instead of real grass for a growing number of playing fields, has at its end of life been sent to landfills. The reason is that this kind of turf is comprised of a mixture of polyethylene, polypropylene and polyurethane, though some can use materials like nylon or polyester. While the plastic in turf field systems can usually be recycled on its own, it is difficult for recyclers separate the plastics from the sand and rubber infill.
But leave it to enterprising and creative thinkers to come up with a solution.
“We built equipment that’s designed specifically for removing and reclaiming the turf,” said Mark Heinlein, president of Turf Reclamation Solutions, a turf removal company in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Until recently, there wasn’t much else you could do with it [other than landfill it], so this is really a huge step for the industry because we now have a solution.”
The life span of a typical turf field is 7-10 years. With more fields installed every year, the amount of material destined for the landfill has steadily grown.
“We’re looking at somewhere around 40 million pounds of carpet that has to be handled on an annual basis, so it’s just a tremendous volume of material,” Heinlein said.
TRS has developed equipment that can separate the infill from turf.
“We have built the equipment that allows us to extract all of that sand and rubber out of the carpet,” Heinlein said. “So now we’re back to having a clean plastic carpet that we can then put through the process to get to an end product.”
Although the company to date has only recycled one field, the company and its partner Astro Turf L.L.C. are offering full-field recycling as a disposal alternative to their customers — at an additional cost. This is definitely an exciting and welcome breakthrough in the field of recycling and a great boost to reducing landfill waste.