Artificial grass in the 21st century is far from the old “turf” introduced in the 1960s. At present, it’s almost impossible to tell real and artificial grass apart. New synthetic turf can now accommodate specialized needs and perform particular functions. However, like everything in this world, your fake grass’ life will come to an end. But what about its afterlife? What happens then?
The best things to do are: recycle, upcycle, and repurpose. It’s possible to breathe new life into your turf.
With so many talks about climate change and environmental destruction, consumers are now more inclined to choose eco-friendly products from environmentally responsible manufacturers and suppliers. As consumers, you’ll want the products you buy to be from companies with the same values as ours. As we push switching to sustainable lifestyles to save the Earth, we are trying to make choices that affect the world positively. Choosing artificial turf is no different.
What is recycling?
The Oxford Dictionary defines recycling as the action or process of converting waste into reusable material. It’s basically taking an item for reuse, returning it to the cycle of utility instead of throwing it out.
Is recycling artificial turf possible?
Yes, it is! Artificial grass is made of common materials including polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon. Most infill products available in the market nowadays are also made of natural materials like broken down stones. All of these are recyclable.
The problem has always been trying to sort out and separate the mentioned materials from each other. However, in the past, the machinery needed to do this was so expensive. It would cost a lot more to tear them apart and recycle them, compared to throwing it out to the landfill which costs nothing. This is probably why people used to believe that grass products being recycled is just a fantasy.
However, with the advancement of technology and new scientific developments, it is now easier to have turf recycled. In Europe, a company is already on the move and recycling turf. 23 facilities across Europe and North America are on their way, too!
Recycling facilities for artificial grass are now also present around the world due to its universal demand. In the US, some recyclers turn them into building products. They’re upcycling artificial turf into posts, planks, lumber, and irrigation pipes. Since the main material for turf is plastic, it’s highly recyclable and flexible. It can also be easily broken apart and changed into new forms of plastic. There exists such a thing as plastic sustainability, and it is saving a lot of resources more than wasting them.
Currently, if you want a green front yard, the choices are: to keep a natural grass lawn, use up water, pesticides, and fuel to maintain it. Or, you could install a blanket of artificial grass, without any of the regular maintenance needed, and you could even have it recycled.
How is artificial turf recycled?
First, infill is taken off. Then, the turf blades are separated from its backing, ground into pellets and re-entered into the cycle. This could either mean they will be formed again into artificial grass or will be used as polymers for fresh equipment. The backing is also ground up and recycled as raw materials as useful objects.
Developments have been made introducing a circular economy for recycling artificial turf. The same process is used, taking apart the different properties of the carpet. They are cleaned and sterilized, ready to make new turf out of. The pellets are then introduced as raw materials for the same cycle—and the same product. It’s now possible to make turf, from turf!
In countries all over the world, governments are using plastic as fillers for road base. Plastic is shredded into tiny pieces and mixed in with cement and asphalt to create cost-effective lightweight roads that are now considered a solution for the world’s growing plastic waste problem. In 2018, the University of California, San Diego, installed the first plastic and asphalt road in the United States.
Turf blades can be ground and shredded the same way. After your use, they can be introduced into our roads, making our highways stronger. This will also mean budget cuts for road works. Creating new things won’t be as expensive with recycled plastic products compared to those purely made of asphalt or cement alone.
Repurposing artificial turf at home is also possible. After it has served as your beautiful lawn for at least ten years, your turf’s life can still be extended for much more! Clean your turf using water and soap, cut it up and turn parts of it into washable outdoor mats. Or build your dog a pet run that he can play and sleep on! There are plenty of ideas out there to inspire you!
In repurposing a sports field of artificial grass, some use them as surfaces for batting cages, dugouts, indoor practice areas, driving ranges, sand trap-lining for erosion control, sidelines, and running track protective strips.
Grass recyclers have also combined fake grass with furniture to give a natural look to their homes. Lampshades are wrapped in turfgrass, and are used in chairs as a cushion for maximum comfort! You can even make your own hanging garden to add a homey feel to your living area. Because synthetic grass is made of plastic products, it is multipurpose and can be used in an endless number of ways.
Is recycled artificial grass still usable?
There are a lot of sellers in the market with used artificial grass as their main product. These products still sell because they can be used for quite a number of things, not just as a surface for your lawn. However, these products are not advised to be used because there is no way to ensure where it has been on in its past life. It could have been contaminated with harmful chemicals, or other dangerous substances in its first use. Although, there’s nothing completely wrong with using secondhand turf. It’s only better to get something brand new as opposed to one that’s already been used by someone else. Get freshly manufactured artificial grass that you’ll be using first to dispel any and all doubts regarding the safety of your lawn.