Sustainable practices are on the rise. Businesses in every industry are evolving in environmentally and socially responsible ways, largely in response to growing public concerns. The artificial turf industry is a part of this green revolution, and collectively, the industry is starting to coordinate all the pieces required to address the end-of-life environmental impact of synthetic turf in meaningful ways.
Everyone from the field owners and spectators to the leaders of the industry is examining and finding solutions for the material waste involved in the lifecycle and management of artificial turf fields. At USGreentech, we recognize the need for sustainable business practices and we focus on supplying products that are non-toxic, reusable, recyclable, and/or degradable.
The environmental impact of artificial turf fields
While there is waste involved in the turf industry (and more so with unsustainable and nonrecyclable products), there are environmental benefits to artificial turf. Opting for a synthetic turf sports field has proven to reduce water usage and eliminates the use of harsh pesticides.
Synthetic turf field systems consist of 3 main components: the infill, turf, and pad. Thanks to new technologies, each of these components can be designed or upgraded to minimize waste, by utilizing environmentally responsible materials and thoughtful maintenance protocols. Let’s take a closer look at each of the main parts of a turf system and its environmental impact:
The Turf Infill
Infill makes up 90% of the weight of the entire system and can weigh in excess of 225 tons per field. Proper disposal of this component substantially reduces the industry’s wastefulness and environmental impact. Turf infill can be recycled and reused if it is properly separated from the turf.
Turf makes up 8% of the weight of the system. Like turf infill, the turf can be recycled after the process of adequately separating the components. Most turf manufacturers extend an 8-year warranty and fields last an estimated 10+ years with proper maintenance.
Pad makes up 2% of the weight of the system. Most pads come with a 20-25 year warranty, allowing for reuse of the pad throughout multiple turf lifecycles. As the industry evolves, eco-friendly pads are becoming more common, often made from recycled turf, carpets, or scrap foam.
The elephant on the field: turf infill waste (and earth-friendly solutions)
Turf infill is by far the largest part of any synthetic turf field, comprising 90% of its weight. Infill has an average lifespan of 10 years, after which, it needs to be replaced. In 2020, an estimated 950 fields were replaced nationwide. In most cases, the retired fields are removed and disposed of in a landfill. With an average of 250 tons of waste per field, this equates to 237,500 tons (or 475,000,000 pounds) of turf infill that’s removed and thrown into a landfill in the United States annually. This number is astonishing, and unless a different approach is adopted, it will continue to grow as the industry matures. So, what’s the solution?
Envirofill and Safeshell are sustainable, high-performance turf infill options
USGreentech has a legacy of pioneering environmentally responsible products for artificial turf sports fields since its inception. Our main purpose is to manufacture high-performance turf infill sourced from sustainable, non-toxic materials. Many of the available turf infill options are disposable and only suitable for landfills after one lifecycle. Envirofill, our most popular infill product, is designed to be reused over several life cycles and eventually reclaimed, cleaned, and recycled when it needs to be replaced. Both Envirofill and Safeshell are made and sourced locally in the US, lowering our products’ carbon footprint.
Go green with Envirofill
Envirofill will make your field green in more ways than one; its vibrant color and superior quality offer high performance without compromising on safety, health, cleanliness, or durability.
On a granular level, Envirofill is an extremely durable infill with a quartz sand core and a pigmented acrylic coating that’s permanently infused with Microban, an antimicrobial technology. The acrylic coating is frequently used in exterior building-grade products and its life expectancy is measured in decades. After extensive testing conducted to validate Envirofill, and years of monitoring its on-field performance, USGreentech confidently extends a 16-year warranty on it, ensuring that it can be reclaimed and reused through multiple lifecycles in turf fields.
You might be wondering what happens when Envirofill wears out. At some point, even the most durable exterior products meet their fate, as the UV and natural elements relentlessly work to break them down. At the end of its long lifecycle, Envirofill is reclaimed with equipment designed specifically for the reclamation of infill from synthetic turf fields, by cutting the field, extracting the infill, and rolling the turf. Check out this video of the turf reclamation process, featuring Turf Reclamation Solutions (TRS). At this point, Envirofill is gathered in super sacks, and sent back to our manufacturing facility, in partnership with the field owner and contractor. The cost of this process is partially offset by the savings realized from not paying for landfill disposal of the infill. Once it arrives at our manufacturing facility, the Envirofill is cleaned by removing foreign objects such as fibers, inorganics, dirt, and debris, and then recoated and made available once again.
Safeshell is the gold standard in sustainable turf infill
Made from 100% natural products, with no chemicals added, Safeshell is one of the most environmentally responsible turf infills on the market. We source walnut shells, the by-product of black walnuts grown in the wild and harvested as food without insecticides, pesticides, or irrigation. These shells comprise 50% of the materials in Safeshell, the remainder of which is made of English walnut shells grown in California. While most organic infills on the market are more sustainable than typical infill offerings, they may require additional resources to produce and are not rapidly renewable. Safeshell is an award-winning, certified USDA Bio-Based product and it’s biodegradable, which means that it’s composted or used to top off a natural field at the end of its life. It is warrantied for 8 years and has gone through testing to monitor its durability and product breakdown.
Let’s make your field greener!
Envirofill and Safeshell are excellent, earth-friendly turf infill products for sports fields, landscaping, and a variety of other applications. Like our infills, other components of the synthetic turf system, such as shock pads, are being reused and recycled to become more sustainable. Ensuring all the components of a field are responsibly diverted from the landfill requires cooperation from the manufacturer, designer, contractor, and field owner. Any broken links in this chain can be detrimental to the goal, however, we believe that the effort is worthwhile to create a responsible solution to this complex problem.
Questions about infill? Reach out to our team.