Potential of artificial grass explored in collaboration by six cities

The City of Helsinki is involved in a study commissioned by six Finnish cities, the aim of which is to produce information on the circular economy and the recycling potential of artificial grass mats. The study gathers experiences on the reuse of artificial grass and surveys recycling solutions available in Finland and elsewhere in Europe. The study is due to be completed in the summer of 2024.
Renovation of artificial grass field in Lahti.  Photo: Kari Mönkäre
Renovation of artificial grass field in Lahti. Photo: Kari Mönkäre

There are some 450 artificial grass fields in Finland, and the field materials are regularly replaced as they wear. There are currently no sustainable processing methods available for used artificial grass, particularly if it is in poor condition. Challenges to the reuse of artificial grass materials include the many plastic grades used and the other components contained in the mats, such as rubber granules and sand. There is great need for sustainable operating models for the recycling of artificial grass.

In particular, the study will identify recycling solutions available in Europe, where specialised facilities already exist. More sustainable solutions to promote the circular economy of artificial grass in Finland are also hoped for. 

– It will be interesting to see what the study reveals about the potential for promoting domestic commercial circular economy solutions, says project coordinator Oleg Jauhonen from the City of Helsinki. 

There is also hope that the study will provide information to support decision-making on projects to remove artificial grass in the coming years.  

The national artificial grass study is a joint project of the cities of Espoo, Helsinki, Lahti, Oulu, Tampere and Vantaa. Expert organisations involved in the project are the Finnish football federation Palloliitto, waste management company Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy, the Finnish Environment Institute, Turku University of Applied Sciences and the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency. The research will be carried out by Ramboll Finland Ltd. The study is due to be completed in the summer of 2024.  

Removal pilot projects offer practical information on current state 

Helsinki has also launched simultaneous pilot projects on circular economy solutions for used artificial grass to find sustainable operating models for the recycling of decommissioned artificial grass. The pilot projects started with a joint market dialogue event in December. The plan is to realise the pilot projects in the spring in connection with the renovation of two to four artificial grass fields. The experience gained from the pilot projects will complement the nationwide study.  

In addition to circular economy solutions for used artificial grass, Helsinki has reacted proactively to the upcoming ban of rubber granules by utilising bio-based fillers that replace rubber granules in new fields to gain experience of their use. In addition, various measures have been taken to reduce the spread of rubber granules from fields to the environment. 

Helsinki promotes the circular economy of plastics 

In addition to reducing emissions, the City of Helsinki aims to promote circular economy solutions and support the sustainable use of natural resources and materials. According to the recently updated Action Plan for the Circular and Sharing Economy, the city aims to find ways to promote the circular economy of plastics, especially in infrastructure construction, landscaping and the construction of sports facilities. The progress of the measure is accelerated by the national PlastLIFE project funded by the EU’s LIFE Programme, in which Helsinki is involved.  

Helsinki’s vision is to be a platform for innovative and effective circular economy solutions that support the national transition towards a carbon neutral circular economy society.