Special Report: Change the pitch

20160810_093659vv special reportMaterials circularity on artificial pitches is changing grass roots level sports, as Advanced Sports Installations Europe discusses. Advanced Sports Installations Europe (ASIE) is developing a zero-waste method of artificial pitch renewal.1,2 This method is called the ARENA concept and it makes the reuse of all used materials of artificial grass pitches possible, reducing CO2 emissions by 80%, compared to present methods of fields renewal, and also saving costs of up to 50% for field owners. ASIE has now completed the first field tests of the new concept and has renewed several football fields in Europe.

Artificial grass sports fields are a growing trend in Europe, where there are about 25,000 full-sized football fields and almost 1,000 new fields built yearly. But the lifetime of an artificial grass field is an average of ten years, depending on usage and maintenance quality. This also means that around 2,500 fields need to be removed and rebuilt. Until now there has not been a perfect solution on how to remove, clean, reuse or recycle old materials. More than 90% of the materials are sent to landfill, making more than seven million tonnes of waste in what are actually reusable materials.

Fields and the renewal process

ASIE has developed a full solution to remove used artificial grass, clean the materials and reuse both, thereby removing the need for landfill. The technology is called the ARENA concept and is developed with the support of Horizon 2020 funding for innovations and SMEs.

The best example of the development result is that of Mönchengladbach, Germany, where ASIE completed the first field job with ARENA concept machines. Our customer ordered the removal of two full-sized football fields which were used by local citizens and football clubs for daily training and competitions. ASIE began by rolling up the turf using the Crab removal system. This took less than a day and all 28 rolls from a single field with infill were stored on the car park adjacent to the pitch. On the second and third days, all the rolls were processed with ArenaMaster to reclaim the infill mixture from the grass. As the grass was still in good condition, our customer POLYTAN sold it to Africa to be installed as a football pitch there, as the four-metre wide rolls makes a good level of reinstallation possible.

Infill from of the pitch was still in good condition and the customer wished to reuse it on the same pitch but with new grass. To raise the quality of the used infill, ASIE utilised the new ‘Wizard’ device. Wizard is for cleaning and separating infill material and can take out all the dust and debris in the infill mixture, which is then separated into sand and rubber crumbs. These cleaned materials were loaded into bags and again kept next to the field, ready for reinstallation. In this way the customer saved a lot of the costs of transportation, which would have taken the used materials to landfill as well as new materials to the field. It also provides a big environmental saving – about 10,000km of truck transportation was saved and 150 tonnes of sand was not mined, plus around 80 tonnes of new rubber was not produced.

The owners of the two German pitches were impressed with the speed of the work, as well as the quality and cleanliness of the recycled materials. As a result, our co-operation with the customer, who gave us strong feedback, will continue, and we are pleased with the progress of our Arena concept.

The ARENA concept for artificial grass is actually much broader than described above. It covers activities from the evaluation and maintenance of pitches that are in use, to cleaning and recycling all materials, including the used artificial turf.

In general we can separate the ARENA concept into three main parts:

Evaluating pitches and planning

ASIE is developing a machine called GreenEye, which can automatically measure infill thickness on the field. Based on the measuring result, we can then evaluate the infill amount on the fields and the calculated quantity of material needed to add during the following maintenance. All this data will then be uploaded to our database where we can analyse the results and plan upcoming jobs.

Actions on pitches

Here we have developed three different machines which are designed to work together. All these machines have working prototypes and will be running on the field already – when the pitch owner has decided to renew the artificial grass, the first step is always to roll the used artificial turf up. We do this with a machine called the Crab and it can be done in less than a day. The rolls of turf with the infill inside are in four-metre-long rolls and stored next to the pitch, and the field is now ready for the installation of new turf.

Next to the field we use a machine called the ArenaMaster for the reclamation of infill from the artificial grass. For this the rolls will be pulled through the ArenaMaster and the infill will be beaten and brushed out. After this process, the grass will again be rolled and the infill mixture progressing to the next process – the Wizard. This device separates rubber crumbs from sand and removes the debris and dust. After this operation, the sand and rubber crumbs are also ready for reinstallation.

Depending on each job, the Wizard process may not be necessary. When the infill materials are in good enough conditions, we can reinstall them without it.

Recycling used grass

ASIE’s first option is always to reinstall used turf, but eventually it will be so worn that it will no longer be possible to make an acceptable level of pitch with it. In this case, the used grass will be crushed and a compound produced and ASIE plans to establish a mobile recycling plant by the summer of 2018.

Developments

To support all these activities, collecting data from pitches and helping with planning, ASIE is developing a database called ‘Cloud’. This is a modern tool for planning daily working processes as well as handling materials and dealing with customers. The database is built up by following Industry 4.0 principles. We collect as much digital information from processes as is reasonable, analyse them, and then use the data for planning the next renewal processes, educating our staff and developing the machines of the ARENA concept.

The ARENA concept is a new way of thinking about the renewal of artificial grass fields and materials handling. To bring these ideas to other people and to showcase the new possibilities, ASIE attended a first-time demo event in Tallinn, Estonia, called ARENA 2017 in February.

The event was public and all visitors were welcomed. To reach key persons we gave many personal invitations to the event. The main invited visitors were ASIE’s present customers and potential new ones. We also invited our partners and artificial grass and other materials suppliers. A third main group of persons were from football associations in the different countries of Europe. Of course, many local visitors from local municipalities and football clubs were also in attendance.

ASIE lined up all its machinery, including ARENA concept prototypes – Crab, ArenaMaster and Wizard. The best way to understand the machines is to show them working, so we ran all the machines as we explained their principal functions to visitors. These direct contacts were good for both sides – visitors understood our capabilities and we learnt what the important aspects for field owners and players are.

The demo event in 2017 was so successful that ASIE decided to repeat it next year. You are welcome to ARENA 2018, from 18-23 of February 2018, where we will have an even wider range of machines to show (www.sportsinstallations.com/arena2018/).

References

1          http://www.paneuropeannetworkspublications.com/GOV20/#150 

2          http://www.horizon2020projects.com/special-reports/pitch-perfect/

“This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 726618”.

Meelis Koik

Advanced Sports Installations Europe AS

+372 5330 9003

info@sportsinstallations.com

http://www.sportsinstallations.com/