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An Estonian company proves that artificial turf can be environmentally friendly and recyclable

For the past 27 years, Advanced Sports Installations Europe has been active in the area of artificial turf, installing football fields all over Europe. For the past couple of years, the company has expanded their portfolio to be more environmentally friendly and recyclable.

With the Arena Concept, the company offers artificial turf owners the option of an innovative, zero-waste method of reusing artificial turf on-site in just 7 days.

If the turf is in a condition that it cannot be renewed, they later have the option to use recyclable materials in other areas of business.

The PR and media manager of Advanced Sports Installations Europe, Roomer Tarajev, told Life in Estonia that the idea to renew artificial turf came to them a couple of years ago when the Finnish Football Association commissioned the company to build a new field.

‘Arriving at the location, our people noticed that the artificial turf was in such good condition that it would be wasteful to get rid of the turf and replace it with a new one,’ said Tarajev.

Circular economy ideas in action

The owner of the company, Raul Lättemägi, came up with a “circular economy” idea that the company later called the Arena Concept. The idea is quite simple: the artificial turf is picked up and inserted into a machine which separates the turf, sand and plastic particles. In the process, the separated particles are dried. After that, everything is put back together and laid down again. If it’s not possible to re-use the separated particles then they are recycled. For example, the plastic collected has been used to build a terrace.

The concept for the machines, which Lättemägi came up with during a trip to Norway, is used by the company to this day.

The company has been awarded many titles for the concept, one of them was Environmentally Friendly Company of the Year. The title was awarded by the Estonian Ministry of the Environment. The representatives of the company have been asked to give talks at the UN about the circular economy and zero-waste treatment.

Faster development and larger volumes thanks to state support

To improve the machines, which they call Grab, Arena Master and Wizard, the company accepted monetary assistance from Enterprise Estonia and the EU Horizon 2020 Program.

According to Tarajev, use of the funds gave them the opportunity to develop the machines faster and in larger volumes.

The weight of one artificial turf football field is around 300 tons, so packing it up and shipping it to some faraway location produces a lot of CO2 in the process. To combat polluting the Earth, Advanced Sports Installations Europe’s machines are mobile and can fit inside one big truck.

Even though the first artificial turf fields were produced in the 1970’s, the world is only now starting to think about the environmental aspects of them.

‘There are over 20 000 artificial turf football fields in Europe and their average life cycle is around 10 years. About 90% of the fields are not recycled,’ told Tarajev.

One of the latest markets the company has entered is the Netherlands. According to the PR manager it is not a rare sight to see literal mountains of artificial turf in Holland. The company announced expanding into said market this spring but ran into some legal troubles which have now been resolved.

Minimal ecological footprint

The company is keen on keeping their own ecological footprint to a minimum, for this they have their machines scattered all over Europe, so clients in Scandinavia don’t need to wait for machines to arrive from other parts of Europe and vice-versa. The machines are operated by a team of three people and, in total, the company has around seven teams working with the machines.

According to Tarajev, the company is now in a phase where they don’t do any active sales pitches because their clients find them themselves. The company sees that the most environmentally friendly thinking clients are from Scandinavia. Expanding into new markets outside of Europe is in their minds but they are not in a hurry to conquer new territories. Today they have clients in 26 countries.

In addition to the Arena Concept, the company offers artificial turf fields with a monthly lease. Normally, local authorities or football clubs buy a field with no strategy for what to do with it after ten years. With the operating lease, which they call the “5G artificial turf field”, the company takes responsibility for maintaining and recycling it.

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