The new recycling facility that is being built at Tiel, the Netherlands, has achieved an environmental goal that sets this process apart from others in the industry. An initiative of Re-Match Netherlands, the facility will be dedicated to the recycling of artificial turf, using a patented recycling process that shreds, cleans and separates the turf cleanly, without the use of water or chemicals, back into its constituent components: sand, rubber, backing and plastic fibre, the company claims.
While separating the sand from the rubber generally poses few problems, the real environmental benefit is derived from separating the plastic fibres from the rubber. A single artificial football pitch contains the equivalent of 1.4 million plastic bags in plastic fibres. The new facility will have the capacity to recycle more than 2 million square meters of synthetic turf pitches - some 280 - per year from the Netherlands and Belgium. In plastic fibre alone, the equivalent of 400 million plastic bags – every year.
This environmental impact has been validated by the EU; moreover, Re-Match is the only turf recycler to have received an ETV verification - an independent evaluation to validate the environmental claims made about innovative technologies, to allow users, developers, regulators, and other parties can make informed decisions about purchasing, applying and regulating these technologies.ETV is not a certification scheme; instead it ensures that a product’s environmental claims are true and verified, and presents a clear assessment of the technology’s environmental potential and value.
The facility is the first of its kind that is required to meet the new zero nitrogen emission requirements: “A huge challenge”, said COO, Dr. Stefaan Florquin. ”But that’s what we do at Re-Match. We push the boundaries of environmental technologies while contributing to maximum reduction of nitrogen and the minimum use of fossil fuels. The last step towards becoming a local artificial turf recycler in the Netherlands is now successfully completed with the approval of the environmental permit.”
The Tiel plant will be a digitalised facility that will also serve as a blueprint for subsequent recycling plants that Re-Match aims to build in Europe and North America.
The project has also received funding from the EU in order to develop a process to produce new yarns from the recycled turf. Already, sand and rubber from the recycling process are reused as infill in new fields. However, to date, the fibres have gone towards the production of products such as picnic tables, support panels and parking posts. A €2.5 million grant from the EU Green Deal, is being used by Re-Match and its partners to developed a closed loop for the polymer fibres
“It is our mission to ensure full circularity of synthetic turf – and to us, this means that the plastic fibre is also used for production of new turf pitches,” said Re-Match CEO, Nikolaj Magne Larsen.
The new recycling facility will create jobs for 35 full-time employees.
“The municipality of Tiel welcomes this innovative front runner in synthetic turf recycling,” said alderman Ben Brink. The new facility will be built on a site spanning 31, 800 m2; the factory itself will measure 8,769 m2. It will include a 20-metre separation tower for separating the components into clean end products, ready to replace virgin materials in new production cycles.
During the new construction phase, Re-Match Netherlands will continue to collect discarded artificial pitches. These will be recycled at the new factory as soon as production starts in Tiel.
“The Netherlands is the country with the highest square meters of artificial turf per inhabitant in the world,” said Larsen. “And we are delighted to now be able to offer the Netherlands a truly sustainable recycling solution for its end-of-life turf.”