Truly limitless possibilities: why circular solutions are key to sustainable synthetic turf
We believe that the wider concept of sustainability is an essential responsibility of TenCate Grass and our industry. Here, we explore eco-solutions currently attracting attention, and share the central sustainability concept driving our own choices.
Synthetic turf offers limitless possibilities for sports, play, and recreation. It can be used year-round, at any time, in any weather, and without needing water, fertilizers or recovery time. At TenCate Grass, we add yet another dimension to these ‘endless’ possibilities by ensuring that our turf products minimise the impact on our planet’s resources. With climate change being one of the critical issues of our time, we believe that the wider concept of sustainability is an essential responsibility of TenCate Grass and our industry. In this article we explore some of the eco-solutions currently attracting attention, and share the central sustainability concept driving our own choices.
Sustainability is a complex theme
Currently, the synthetic turf industry presents many sustainability options, often without verification. At TenCate Grass, while we applaud and participate in the search for improved sustainable solutions, we also like to emphasize the need for caution. Sustainability is a complex topic, and many solutions that seem eco-friendly at first glance may have detrimental effects in the longer run, or when subjected to more scrutiny. These harmful effects are sometimes unknown, sometimes underestimated or sometimes too complicated to add to the equation. Below, we are going to take a closer look at some specific topics.
Sustainability is a complex topic, and many solutions that seem eco-friendly at first glance may have detrimental effects in the longer run with more scrutiny
The complexities of ‘bio-based’
Some synthetic turf solutions use bio-based materials derived from biomass, like sugar cane. Obviously, these plant-based materials sound more ecological than traditional fossil fuel-based plastics, and ‘bio-based’ labels clearly appeal to eco-conscious customers. At the same time, a label like this raises tough questions our industry cannot afford to avoid. With new materials and processes come unforeseen consequences, such as damage to the environment through deforestation. In this light, it is safe to say that the sustainability value of the term ‘bio-based’ is often overstated – and it is essential that we investigate these materials and solutions as deeply as we can, before relying on them.
The sustainability value of the term ‘bio-based’ is often overstated – and it is pivotal that we investigate these materials and solutions as deeply as we can, before relying on them
What’s in a label? Bio-degradable versus bio-based
The terms ‘bio-based’ and ‘bio-degradable’ are sometimes used interchangeably, despite their different meanings: while ‘bio-based’ refers to a material’s origin, ‘bio-degradable’ means a material will break down naturally over time. This makes bio-degradable materials useful for single-use, short life-cycle products: their bio-degradability means they will not pollute the environment, should they end up in soil or water – which is, of course, a valuable attribute. However, bio-degradable materials are often far from sustainable if applied to long-life or ‘second life’ products, like synthetic turf. This is because the cost of energy, processing, logistics and manufacturing is fully ‘lost’ after only a short period of use. Furthermore, the risk of premature bio-degradation can result in a solution that needs to be prematurely replaced – costing even more energy and resources.
Why we should label with caution
Inappropriate use of labels carrying insufficiently researched sustainability claims is a risk to our industry, as it can lead to accusations of greenwashing. This is why at TenCate Grass we advocate for an honest, transparent presentation of the environmental impact of our products – so that our customers can make informed decisions.
Inappropriate use of labels carrying insufficiently researched sustainability claims is a risk to our industry, as it can lead to accusations of greenwashing
Circularity, the central concept in our eco-vision
We recognise that there are many angles and views on sustainability, and that at least some of them call for more extensive research as to their real, long-term impact on our industry’s eco-footprint. This awareness drives our relentless focus on researching and optimizing the sustainability credentials of our products and processes. Whenever we design a new product, its environmental impact is one of the key performance indicators we consider – alongside user safety, playability, longevity and the like. The central concept in our vision is circularity.
What are circular turf solutions?
With circular solutions, we mean those that perform throughout multiple cycles or periods of use, thereby offering a maximized lifecycle, after which, upon recycling, the recovered materials can be re-used for high-quality applications, not necessarily within our industry. While most recycling today is in fact downcycling, we are moving up the quality ladder on the basis of an increasing use of ‘designed to recycle’ products. Our Legacy Technology is a prime example of this.
Here is what we mean in more detail:
- We develop products using high-quality, long-lasting raw materials
- We design systems while aiming to reduce the initial material mass
- We aim to use as few raw materials as we can (only one, if possible). This exponentially increases the opportunity to re-use the raw materials for high quality applications.
- We are investing in infrastructure to collect, process, harvest and re-use materials upon their end of (first) life.
As these 4 steps show, a circular approach to product development and application – with the right designs and the right infrastructure in place – yields several concrete and irrefutable ecological benefits:
- Lower volumes of raw material used
- Reduced waste
- Use and reuse of the same materials for a very long period of time
- Consistently high-performing products for consumers
A futureproof industry with truly endless possibilities
Looking towards the future
At TenCate Grass, we are always searching for ways to improve the sustainability of our turf products. We continue to monitor both bio-based and bio-degradable technologies, working with world-leading experts and suppliers to ensure we are ready for any breakthroughs in technology and applicability. We continue to extensively review state-of-the-art research in these fast-evolving areas to ensure we are doing the right thing to achieve a truly sustainable synthetic turf value chain. Looking towards the future, we believe that circular solutions offer at least one reliable key to a sustainable industry with truly endless possibilities.
Would you like to learn more about sustainable synthetic turf? Contact us now via tencategrass.com/contact-us/