Kai Weber-Gemmel, FieldTurf, firstname.lastname@example.org
Artificial turf pitches are becoming increasingly popular for sports facilities. The decisive advantages are that they can be used with high intensity and independently of the weather. When choosing a new artificial turf, the question that has to be asked is: “How ‘green’ is a modern artificial turf?”
FieldTurf, a globally leading manufacturer of artificial turf, develops new solutions in cooperation with fibre supplier Morton Extrusionstechnik. Both companies are part of the Tarkett Group, which, with its 12,000 employees, produces 1.3 million m² of flooring – on a daily basis. A synthetic turf’s climate neutrality hinges on replacing petroleum as the raw material for the artificial turf fibre. The development department of Morton Extrusionstechnik in Abtsteinach is addressing precisely this challenge. Thanks to the cooperation with TotalEnergies, pyrolysis oil is emerging as the new resource.
photo: TotalEnergies/Laurent Villeret
Chemical recycling – Advanced Recycling
Pyrolysis oil is obtained by chemically recycling plastic waste. The aim of this form of advanced recycling is to convert plastic waste into a raw material for new plastics. Recycling could thus be one of the solutions to the global plastic waste problem.
In 2017, around 6.1 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated in Germany alone. Each German citizen thus produces an average of 38 kg of plastic packaging waste per year – a total of around 3 million tonnes.
There are three ways of recycling plastic waste:
Mechanical or physical recycling: the macromolecules are retained and plastic recyclates are created as the product.
Raw material or chemical recycling: the macromolecules are broken down and the product is resources from which new plastics can be made.
Energy recovery or thermal recycling: the macromolecules are incinerated and the product is energy coupled with carbon emissions.
Since plastic is mainly obtained from fossil raw materials such as petroleum, natural gas and coal, it has a considerable energy and calorific value. For this reason, almost half of the plastic waste in Germany is still incinerated for energy, although this means that plastic waste is lost as a source of raw materials. The climate-damaging carbon emissions due to incineration are enormous. During pyrolysis, a chemical recycling process, the macromolecules of the plastic waste are broken down at elevated temperatures (from around 300° Celsius) and in the absence of oxygen. The resulting pyrolysis oil is a high-quality resource for new plastics.
Morton Extrusionstechnik developed a new plastic turf fiber with the plastics from pyrolysis oil from TotalEnergies: the SURETEC fiber = Sustainable – Recycling –Technology – Fiber
The innovative fiber can be made from up to 100% recycled-based plastic, as desired, and has the following advantages:
Conserving resources: By using pyrolysis oil, it is possible to save petroleum as a finite resource.
Reducing carbon emissions: Rather than being incinerated, plastic waste is converted by chemical recycling into pyrolysis oil.
Identical product quality: The artificial turf fibres derived from pyrolysis oil has properties identical to those of products made from fossil resources.
Transparent certification: Independent auditors monitor the ISCC Plus (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification) certification and thus ensure the traceability of the product’s recycled content (mass balance approach). All sites in the supply chain, from the pyrolysis plant to the producers of plastics, fibres and artificial turf, must be ISCC Plus-certified and are monitored by independent certification bodies.
A first pilot project using the SuReTec fibre has been realised by FieldTurf in Rotterdam (Netherlands). Further projects are currently underway in several European cities, including Hoffenheim and Augsburg.
Interview with Jean Viallefont
Jean Villafont, Vice-President Polymers Europe and Orient, TotalEnergies
TotalEnergies is a global multi-energy company that produces and supplies plastics in addition to generating power. With over 105,000 employees in more than 130 countries, TotalEnergies is committed to sustainable development. In its plastics production activities in the heart of Europe, TotalEnergies is committed to the future chemical recycling of European plastic waste. For example, at its Grandpuits site near Paris, TotalEnergies will initially collaborate with its partner Plastics Energy in installing a plant for the chemical recycling of 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year. TotalEnergies aims to increase the share of plastic products based on recycled materials to 30 % by 2030.
Some claim it will take 10 to 20 years before chemical recycling is ready for the market. Is that true?
Viallefont: We are already operating pilot plants for the production of pyrolysis oil from plastic waste with our partners and are successfully using this in our plastic production plants. This means that we can already provide Morton Extrusionstechnik with chemically recycled polyethylene for fibre production and the installation of pilot pitches. We will complete our pyrolysis plant at the Grandpuits site (France) in 2023.
How environmentally friendly is this form of chemical recycling?
Viallefont: Many plastic wastes consist of composites of different types of plastic. For example, there are films with several layers of different materials bonded together. Without chemical recycling, it would be very difficult to find a high-quality application for this waste, leaving incineration as the only option. This technology thus improves the rate of plastic waste recycling and ultimately reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
You use plastic waste as a resource. Is this expected to make plastic products and artificial turf cheaper?
Viallefont: We are working flat out to expand chemical recycling. This involves creating the necessary infrastructure and investing heavily in new plants where waste is converted into pyrolysis oil. In our future plant in Grandpuits, we will invest a total of more than EUR 500 million by 2023 to produce more sustainable plastics as well as new types of fuels and solar energy on site. The cost of plastic products generated with these future technologies is therefore expected to be initially higher than for petroleum-based products in the coming years. This is an investment in shaping a sustainable future.
Interview with Dr. Cornelia Röger-Göpfert and Eric Daniel
Dr. Cornelia Röger-Göpfert, CEO of Morton Extrusionstechnik
Eric Daniel, General Manager FieldTurf Western-Europe
Why are Morton Extrusionstechnik and FieldTurf pushing ahead so vigorously with the development of SURETECTM fibres?
Polyethylene is the key plastic raw material for artificial turf fibres. We are aware that our products only have a future if they have a resource-conserving and climate neutral design. An important starting point here is the raw material for the polyethylene.
Does pyrolysis oil as the raw material for SURETECTM fibres have any quality shortcomings?
None whatsoever. The pyrolysis oil from plastic waste undergoes the same production process as the petrochemical feedstock, so the end product is absolutely identical. This is a huge advantage when our artificial sports turf fibres, for example, are expected to be of high quality and long-lasting.
Can a builder in his public tender request artificial turf made of recycled plastic?
This will soon be possible, pilot projects can already be implemented now. The ISCC Plus certification of the artificial turf producer and the ISCC Plus Sustainability Declaration for the artificial turf supplied, stating both the origin and the proportion of recycled material, provide a guarantee that the plastic is actually made from chemically recycled material.
Are there also alternatives to chemical recycling?
We have looked closely into ways of replacing petroleum as the raw material for our products. Plastics made from plant-based raw materials have been available for some time, but we have deliberately decided against this. We do not want to increase the demand for plant-based raw materials such as sugar cane, as we fear that this will encourage the expansion of monocultures, the loss of biodiversity and indirectly the deforestation of rainforests. This cannot be climate-friendly. Recycling means climate protection. That’s why we rely on the chemical and to some extent on the mechanical recycling of plastic waste in the development of our fibres.
Complete ISCC Plus certification of the supply chain
Morton Extrusionstechnik and FieldTurf also exploit the opportunities of mechanical recycling. A fibre with a core-sheath structure is particularly suitable for this. Pure-grade and cleaned plastic waste is mechanically recycled and incorporated into the fibre core in the process. The patented manufacturing process and the special fibre structure ensure that the artificial turf fibre with a mechanically recycled core has the same high transverse strength and tensile strength as an artificial turf fibre made exclusively from petroleum-based plastic