What Happens to Used Turf?

Lifecycle Options of Synthetic Turf
By: Adam Coleman | October 1, 2013

What is the best approach to dealing with the synthetic turf and infill once it’s removed from a field? In just a few years, 40 million pounds of synthetic turf will be removed annually, and currently there are four viable options available. Let’s explore them in a bit more detail.

Lifecycle Options of Synthetic Turf


This is the simplest and most common way to handle the synthetic turf waste stream. Even though it’s the easiest thing to do, it’s not always the most cost effective. While landfill costs in the Midwest average around $10,000, it could cost 5 times that amount on the East and West Coasts. And after the material hits the dump, it’s a lost resource.

Waste to Energy.
This approach takes the synthetic turf and incinerates it at a high temperature, extracting the BTUs (energy trapped in the product). This energy is then used to heat a boiler and generate electricity. Some amount of residential carpet is handled in this way via the Carpet America Recovery Effort. In a WTE process, the volume of material is typically reduced by 95% while big, powerful scrubbers extract hazardous by-products and ensure that emissions meet strict air quality standards. Critics argue that WTE destroys valuable resources and releases excessive CO2.

Repurposing (Reusing).
This solution takes a piece of turf that was deemed useless in one application and finds use for it in another (a batting cage, for example). While a good short-term solution, the reality is that once the field is divvied up into smaller pieces, the chances for recycling are greatly reduced. The other stark reality is that the repurposed market will soon be flooded with product – about 1,000 synthetic turf fields will be removed in 2016. That’s over 80 million square feet of old turf.

This is the ultimate solution, turning seemingly useless waste into useful plastic goods. These goods can continue to be recycled, creating a closed loop, allow resources to be reused (and not mined) and perpetually delay their trip to the landfill. This is arguably the most difficult solution as it requires specialized machinery to remove and separate the field, and some advanced chemistry to make polyethylene, polypropylene, polyurethane, polyester and/or nylon compatible. TRS can bring all of that together in a turnkey process and once this is done, the applications for molded plastic goods that are only limited by imagination. This option has the best chance for long-term sustainability.

So there you have it. The decision is yours. Choose wisely!

Artificial turf removal and recycling from Turf Reclamation Solutions (TRS):

TRS is a leading national provider of artificial turf removal and recycling solutions designed to fill a growing need in the artificial turf industry. Our services include: Artificial Turf Removal with the VIPER Turf Slicer, WINDER Turf Roller, RATTLESNAKE Infill Separator and WRANGLER Powered Base Unit. TRS is unique in its ability to offer a complete solution from removal to recycling.