Synthetic turf continues to gain popularity worldwide due to its low maintenance and all year playability. The weather no longer controls when one plays the game.
The introduction of 3G pitch technology generated a wave of new synthetic turf installations within the contact sports industry late 1990’s; soccer in particular.
Installations worldwide have continued to increase each year during the past 15 years. The GFC did not have a serious impact on the number of pitches being installed albeit the double-digit annual growth seen in the years 2000-2007 was cut in half from 2009 onwards.
In 2009 the industry experienced excess capacity (yarn and turf production) with fast rising Chinese producers emerging and an industry that consolidated, with existing players integrating vertically.
A total of 33,000 synthetic pitches are today being used for contact sports games worldwide. In the US alone, some 11.000 synthetic turf pitches are installed and the number of pitches being deconstructed has risen exponentially since 2012; growing 300+% to 950 pitches in 2015.
4.200 full size pitches, equal to some 1,000,000 tons of waste and 30m M2, will need to be removed in 2017 in EMEA alone.
The success of the industry has also created future challenges for the turf industry, as well as for the environment.
Once a synthetic turf pitch is worn out and no longer allows for safe and normal play, it needs to be removed (cut, rolled and transported) and disposed.
Until now, the disposal options for worn out turf has been limited to landfill, incineration, various degrees of re-use and part recycling.
As the industry develops, new options and technologies are being developed, however, not fast enough to make an impact on the volume of turf being removed.
Worldwide, in excess of 9,000 pitches will reach their end of life in 2017 and up until now, there has been no sustainable solution to disposing of worn out turf.
These numbers exclude the synthetic turf waste generated by the non-contact sports industry, the leisure and household market segments.
In some countries these markets are growing faster than the contact sports industry.
Already in 2015, according to the Synthetic Turf Council (STC), synthetic turf installations into the leisure market in the USA exceeded the volume installed within the sports industry.