TenCate Grass, a distributor and installer of synthetic turf for sports and landscape applications, has launched a program in the US to recycle artificial grass — an initiative that leverages Cyclyx’s feedstock processing expertise and ExxonMobil’s Exxtend technology for advanced recycling, the companies say.
The goal of this effort is to help solve the problem that has challenged the industry for years: how to efficiently and effectively recycle synthetic turf into feedstock that can be used to create new turf and other valuable products.
Known as TenCate Turf Recycling Solutions, the program is starting by processing 50 aged turf fields from high schools and college campuses. The end-of-life turf will be shipped to a Southern California facility where it will be shredded.
The shredded turf will then be delivered to Texas, where Cyclyx International will further pre-process it before sending the turf to ExxonMobil’s Baytown recycling facility. With ExxonMobil’s Exxtend technology, the end-of-life turf will be broken down into raw materials that can be used to make new products that are no different in quality and performance than those made from virgin raw materials, the companies say. In addition to strengthening the circularity of plastics, ExxonMobil has found that its recycling technology does so while delivering lower relative GHG emissions when compared to processing the same amount of fossil-based feedstocks.
Synthetic turf has been proven to conserve water. Depending on the region, a typical grass sports field in the US requires between 500,000 to a million gallons of water or more each year. During 2010, between 3 billion to 8 billion gallons of water were conserved through the use of synthetic turf. This is becoming even more critical with an increase in droughts and new regulations around water usage.
It also saves time and labor. Synthetic turf does not need to be watered, fertilized or mowed. Synthetic turf can also help reduce noxious emissions from mowing and other maintenance. The EPA estimates gas-powered lawnmowers account for 5% of the air pollution in the United States.
This program with ExxonMobil and Cyclyx builds on TenCate’s efforts to recycle synthetic turf. In the Netherlands, where the company headquarters are located, TenCate recycles its end-of-life turf into Ecocept, an elastic layer in sports fields, and third parties also use the agglomerated material to manufacture new products.
After this initial phase is complete, TenCate plans to expand the initiative across the US — an effort that’s needed now more than ever. In North America alone, the total value of installed synthetic turf systems was estimated at $2.7 billion in 2020, according to the Synthetic Turf Council. This translates into roughly 265 million square feet of installed turf.
ExxonMobil’s recycling facility in Baytown has processed more than 11 million pounds of plastic waste, as of June 2022. ExxonMobil is expanding to a large-scale advanced recycling facility at the site, which, upon startup later this year, will be among North America’s largest advanced plastic recycling facilities, with the capacity to recycle 66 million pounds of plastic waste per year.