The global artificial turf industry is booming globally to the benefit of sports and leisure activities. Unfortunately the environmental problem that presents itself when the turf is worn out is also growing. This problem needs to be handled quickly and wisely.
A new report from the leading global engineer Ramboll validates that it is possible to convert this waste stream into valuable products at no extra cost to society nor the environment.
The Nordic growth fund Nordic Alpha Partners (NAP), who invests in digital solutions and hardtech companies with the potential to drive forward global transformation within their field, has just published a report on the market for recycling of synthetic turf in Northern and Central Europe.
The 2020 Synthetic Turf Transparency Report report shows that overall, the industry is still very far from being able to address this serious waste problem which equals 30Bn plastic bags – every year.
NAP expects the study to give rise to re-evaluation of decision-making processes at many municipalities and other pitch owners who have relied solely on the promises of vendors – primarily due to the lack of transparency in the industry.
“I think what this transparency report shows all too clearly is the need for common standards of documentation and validation when it comes to the recycling of worn-out turf. Currently, decision-makers can easily be misled to believe that they are doing the right thing for the environment, while they in fact could be contributing to the problem,” says Laurits Bach Sørensen, partner at NAP, “and this is not in the interest of neither the municipality, the sports nor the environment.”
NAP’s investment Re-Match is leading the way
The report, which was commissioned with the global engineer and environmental consultancy, Ramboll, concludes that among the major 6 companies whose processes and output were analysed, only one vendor, Re-Match, performs what can be seen as recycling in the true (scientific) sense of the word.
“Of course we are happy to see that our investment, Re-Match, comes out as the clear category leader. It is the only company that has a fully validated process to recycle worn-out turf – and it results in products of a quality that can substitute virgin material – which again classifies it as full circularity,“ says Partner, Laurits Bach Sørensen from NAP and continues: ”Their approach to turf recycling is indeed visionary and we hope that it can serve as an inspiration for improvement in the market.”
The Re-Match process which has received the EU ETV Certification, is purely mechanical and thermal and uses neither water nor chemicals to recycle the worn-out turf.
The report clearly shows that change is needed in the artificial grass industry
All the vendors mentioned in the report by Ramboll were invited to participate on equal ground and given the opportunity to provide documentation of their processes. They will also have this opportunity in the future as NAP intends to follow up and repeat the study next year and expand it to also include Southern Europe and North America.
In addition, NAP is now investigating how to establish a framework which could rally the industry around creating the much needed transparency and finding lasting, sustainable solutions to the recycling of artificial turf.
“The report clearly shows that change is needed and it also gives a strong indication of which processes should be improved in order to achieve the maximum environmental impact. For this important sustainable change to take place, we believe that the vendors need to come together on neutral ground – either by engaging an existing NGO or establishing a new organisation. So we are currently exploring possibilities,” says Laurits Bach Sørensen.
Sound business to drive industry transformations
NAP, who is among others backed by ATP (the second largest institutional investor in Northern Europe) invests in the hardtech companies with the potential to accelerate the large industry transformations taking place within water, logistics, energy and climate.
Last year the growth fund invested in its first turf recycling company, Re-Match, with the aim to quickly expand geographically in order to address the global polymer waste stream presented by worn-out turf pitches. NAP remains open for more acquisitions in the field, if they can find companies that support their vision of converting this large global waste stream into high value products and circularity.
“At NAP we invest based on a principle that all our investments should be able to deliver economic sustainability. Meaning that the products and services that we invest in all support long-term economic growth without negatively impacting social, environmental, and cultural aspects of the society,” says Laurits Bach Sørensen. “We believe that it is good business to drive industry transformations that deliver on these parameters. And within turf recycling, we see a unique opportunity to participate in the rapid growth of the artificial sports surface industry, while at the same time leading the transformation towards sustainability.”
Laurits Bach Sørensen, Partner, Nordic Alpha Partners, mobile: +45 25 26 10 30
Facts about the report
- The report was commissioned by Nordic Alpha Partners (NAP) and the work was carried out by Ramboll – a global engineering and consultancy company with 16.500 employees, in 35 countries across the globe. Ramboll is a world leader within the field of environmental engineering.
- The 6 companies studied in the report are:
GBN, TUF and VINK (the Netherlands)
Re-Match (Denmark), and
- NAP is offering that the substance of the report can be reviewed, updated and assessed specifically together with the vendors in this sector in order to maintain an overview of the different waste treatment possibilities available.
- The full report is available here.
Facts about Nordic Alpha Partners:
- Nordic Alpha Partners (NAP) is an investment fund established in 2017 with approx.
DKK 1Bn under management.
- Investors in the fund (Limited Partners) are a combination of Danish pension funds and private investors, including the fund’s Senior Advisors: Christian Clausen (Ex CEO Nordea), Ole Andersen (EQT, B&O and Danske Bank) and Jim Hagemann Snabe (SAP, A.P. Moeller – Maersk and Siemens)
- The geographical focus is Denmark as well as Germany and Sweden.
- NAP invests ‘intelligent capital’ in production companies that are typically established locally or regionally and have a turnover of DKK 20-150 million and are deemed to have global potential through the application of new technologies such as IoT, digitalization or the potential to lead the transformations of the industries they represent.
- The fund and its partners get much more operationally involved in the investments than what is usual within European venture and growth funds.
- NAP applies its proprietary “Value Creation Model” in all its investments.
- The life of the fund is 10 years, and NAP expects to invest in approx. 15 companies.
- As a general rule, NAP is a minority shareholder and ensures that key competencies, such as founders and key individuals, continue as a central part of creating future success.
- NAP’s first investments were in the Danish companies Carheal, Re-Match, Paralenz and Green Hydrogen as well as Wiferion based in Freiburg, Germany.