ATLANTA, April 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- From schools and municipalities to homeowners, a growing number of people are turning to synthetic turf for sustainable landscape and play solutions. As of 2012, the estimated total amount of synthetic turf installed in North America annually conserves six billion gallons of water and eliminates close to a billion pounds of harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Now, members of the Synthetic Turf Council are creating innovative practices and programs to further synthetic turf's positive impact on the environment.
Significant Environmental Impact
Depending on the region of the country, one full-size synthetic turf sports field saves 500,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of water each year. During 2011, about six billion gallons of water were conserved through its use. According to the EPA, the average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water a day. Therefore, a savings of six billion gallons of water equates to the annual water usage of nearly 40,000 average American families of four.
Thousands of homes, businesses, golf courses, and public spaces have turned to synthetic grass to provide a lush, attractive landscape solution that requires minimal resources. The EPA states that nationwide landscape irrigation is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than seven billion gallons per day. Yet water conservation is more critical than ever before. In March 2011, Wharton published a report about the growing scarcity of water which referenced a prediction by the 2030 Water Resources Group that by 2030 global water requirements will be "a full 40% above the current accessible, reliable supply."
The Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates that every square foot of natural grass replaced saves 55 gallons of water per year. If an average lawn is 1,800 square feet, then Las Vegas homeowners with synthetic grass could save 99,000 gallons of water each year. Recognizing its ability to conserve water, the Simi Valley City Council adopted an ordinance in March 2012 allowing single-family homeowners to cover their front yards almost entirely with synthetic grass.
Replacing grass landscape and sports fields with synthetic turf has eliminated the need for nearly a billion pounds of harmful pesticides and fertilizers, which has significant health and environmental implications. The EPA notes runoff of toxic pesticides and fertilizers is a principal cause of water pollution. Synthetic turf also keeps more than 105 million used tires out of landfills, since crumb rubber recycled from used tires is often used for infill.
When the Battery Park City Authority in New York decided to renovate its old grass ball fields that frequently turned to mud, they wanted to create an athletic field that benefitted the environment as much as players. The result is the country's most sustainable playing field featuring synthetic grass. "We conducted a lifecycle analysis of the individual components of a synthetic turf system in order to maximize sustainability," explained David Nardone, the Sport Group Leader- North America for architecture and planning firm Stantec, who designed the project. The completed field system features Brock International's Cradle to Cradle Certified(CM) combined drainage and shock pad and turf fiber manufactured by TenCate Grass.
Expanding the recycling effort it launched with Yellowstone National Park, Universal Textile Technologies (UTT) is collecting plastic bottles from Grand Teton National Park and converting them into a non-woven fleece material used to manufacture high-performance, environmentally friendly backing for carpet and synthetic turf products. Called the PET Park Project, this partnership diverts nearly 300 million plastic bottles from landfills annually and helps the park meet its recycling goals.
Reclamation of Resources
When a synthetic turf field reaches the end of its useful life, a number of organizations are finding creative ways to reuse system components. EnviroTurf hopes to improve the golf-playing experience by lining sand traps with older synthetic turf fields. Sand typically washes out in traps, creating mud until the sand is replaced. A recycled synthetic turf lining protects the integrity of the sand trap, is aesthetically pleasing and limits erosion. Rather than remove, repair drainage problems and dispose of their old synthetic turf field, Vista High School in Vista, California covered the area with sand and a synthetic turf underlayment system from American Wick Drain. This move saved the school district about $400,000.
Through its Green Edge Recycling Program, all components of Shaw Sportexe synthetic grass can be either reused or recycled. Once the synthetic turf field is taken up, the infill (sand & rubber) is removed, cleaned and reused in future fields. The artificial turf can then be shipped to Shaw's headquarters and repurposed using different methods such as converting it into resin pellets that are used in the manufacturing of other products like Shaw carpet backing and resilient flooring. Shaw's state-of-the-art Re2E (Reclaim to Energy) provides a waste-to-energy solution that reduces post-industrial waste by 90% and produces enough steam to power several of their manufacturing facilities.
Turf Reclamation Services, LLC and FieldAway USA provide the specialized equipment and services needed to remove and reclaim synthetic turf for recycling. Textile Rubber and Chemical Company's ThermoTex Division reprocesses and recycles over a million pounds of synthetic turf materials previously destined for landfills into a variety of new products.
About the Synthetic Turf Council
Based in Atlanta, the Synthetic Turf Council was founded in 2003 to promote the industry and to assist buyers and end users with the selection, use and maintenance of synthetic turf systems in sports field, golf, municipal parks, airports, landscape and residential applications. The organization is also a resource for current, credible, and independent research on the safety and environmental impact of synthetic turf. Membership includes builders, landscape architects, testing labs, maintenance providers, manufacturers, suppliers, installation contractors, infill material suppliers and other specialty service companies. For more information, visit www.syntheticturfcouncil.org.
SOURCE Synthetic Turf Council