Artificial grass is all the rage these days with how strikingly similar it is to real grass, in terms of its shape, texture, feel, and even smell now! However, no matter how high-quality your artificial turf is, it won’t last forever. When it is being disposed of, many worry about the impact of artificial grass on the environment and whether it can be recycled.
So to answer your question, yes and no. Many manufacturers advertise that their artificial grass can be ‘recycled’ but it’s not that simple. There are many intricacies involved that explain the extent to which artificial grass really can be recycled.
Can Artificial Grass Really be Recycled?
Initially, many people simply threw away their artificial grass after it was no longer usable. This was because of the general view that artificial turf cannot be recycled and also because the type of grass being manufactured could not be recycled very well.
However, with the advancement in technology and more environmentally responsible demands of the consumers, there have been major efforts to produce grass that is sustainable. That being said, even if people have started recycling their artificial grass, it isn’t the same as recycling other everyday products such as paper, glass, and plastic.
The Difficulties with Recycling Artificial Grass
The problem with recycling artificial grass comes from the infill part of it and not the plastic used to make the surface of the grass. A major part of artificial grass is plastic of different types – nylon, polypropylene, and polyethylene, etc. However, the infill usually contains crumb rubber, sand, silica granules, or Durafil.
The difficulty arises when separating the plastic and infill components of the grass. The process of separating the recyclable parts from the non-recyclable ones is taxing, expensive, and oftentimes, not worth the effort it takes.
How Artificial Turf is Recycled
The process of recycling artificial turf has gone through many improvements over the years and is now quite simple.
The first step is to separate the landscaping material. This is done by thoroughly separating the recyclable components of the artificial turf. This requires taking away the infill and separating the blades of the turf from its backing.
These materials are then processed until they are in a good enough quality to be reused. The recycled materials then act as raw materials for other products, such as carpets and rugs, etc. Other products made from recycled artificial grass include linings for highway barrels, t-shirts, school bags, and top dressing for natural grass. Apart from these, much of the recycled grass is used to again make artificial turf.
Most of the plastic extracted from the artificial grass is cut down into tiny pieces, melted over high temperatures, and shaped into new material. This is essentially what the process of “re-pelletizing” does. It cuts, melts, and turns the plastic of artificial turf into small pellets that are used to create useful plastic products.
Is Recycling Always Recycling?
Choosing the right company to hand over your artificial turf for recycling is a tricky task because not all companies exactly ‘recycle’ the grass as they claim. For instance, many just reclaim and improve its condition in order to sell it at lower rates than original. This is not recycling as once the new user of the grass decides to dispose of it, the problem would again be highlighted. Also, if the waste material is not converted into reusable material, it doesn’t classify as recycling.
Moreover, it is important to note that many of the infill materials available in the market nowadays can be recycled too.
That being said, many companies actually conduct rigorous chemical processes to properly recycle the grass. However, just because someone claims to ‘recycle’ artificial grass does not mean that they actually do.
Limited Recycling Availability
Despite the technology and equipment for recycling artificial grass being available, it isn’t as widespread or commonly utilised as it should be given how popular artificial turf has become in recent years. This is why it can be quite hard to find a company that recycles artificial turf as responsibly as you expect it to.
Is Recycled Artificial Grass Still Usable?
There are manufacturers who sell recycled artificial turf, and often at low rates. However, we wouldn’t recommend you buy these.
Even if the grass looks high-quality and is in a very good condition, you would have no idea how it has been treated in the past and what dangerous chemicals it has been exposed to. This is especially crucial to consider for those who have children or pets at home.
Therefore, it is a much safer idea to buy newly manufactured artificial grass.
Repurposing Artificial Grass
Even though repurposing does not equal recycling in any way, it can still be considered as a useful option if recycling is not feasible for any reason. There are many creative ways the best artificial grass can be used long after it looks like it has seen better days.
All you need to do is clean it thoroughly with water and soap before cutting it into different-sized mats. These can be used for the following purposes.
- Controlling erosion by sand-trap lining
- Flooring in batting cages
- Covering for animal shelters
- Barn mats
- Combining with furniture for a natural look
- Using as a cover for dog runs
- Ground covering for play areas
Apart from these, there are a plethora of interesting ideas available to decorate the house with used turf for things like artificial grass rugs.
There can be multiple reasons why you are ready to give up your artificial turf now. It might have lived its nearly 2 decades long life or you simply want to remodel your space and want something new.
Either way, your first priority should be to find a way to get it sustainably recycled. With how plastic and related waste is polluting the planet at an astonishing rate, everyone needs to play their part in limiting the use and disposal of plastic.
If this isn’t possible, then there are multiple options to use it in your home rather than throwing it away in the landfill.