Case study

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transforming hockey.

TOKYO 2020

A new category of hockey turf has been created – Climate Positive Hockey. These are hockey turfs that make a positive contribution to the environment.

For Tokyo. For the planet.

Introducing Poligras Tokyo GT

A world first in sustainable turf technology. Now teams can play for their clubs, fans, countries, Tokyo and the planet.

When Tokyo challenged the sporting world with the idea that it would be the world’s first carbon neutral games, that posed a big problem for a sport like hockey which is played on perfectly smooth, synthetic grass. But thanks to Sport Group’s dedication to transforming the business of sport and space, along with their industry leading initiatives in green technology, this dream is soon to become a game-changing reality with the world’s first truly sustainable hockey turf at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

 

challenges

When your product is primarily made of polyethylene. What do you do?

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The biggest challenge Sport Group faced was finding another ingredient which would still provide the same performance standards as traditional fossil fuel-based polyethylene, but without the environmental impact.

This meant looking at the whole production chain, starting with sourcing the raw ingredients.

  • What should it be made from?

  • Where do we find it?

  • How could it be harvested and what would be the best way to manufacture it?

  • How do we minimise the impact of installation and transportation?

  • What can we do from a use and maintenance perspective to extend its useful lifecycle and reduce the water consumption?

  • How do we keep it cost-efficient and economically viable for partners and stakeholders?

  • How do we deal with disposal and what role should re-cycling play?

These were fundamental, wide-ranging and difficult questions for the business. But something Sport Group was determined to answer.

 
 
 

 approach

These challenges required us to start right at the beginning of the value chain, with the raw ingredients. This meant we needed to employ a very creative and collaborative approach, drawing on the company’s 50 years of industry knowledge and working closely with technical and environmental specialists from within and outside our industry.

1. Find the right ingredient partners

Sport Group companies have always set uncompromising quality standards in the selection of our base raw materials and the development of our GT (Green Technology) range is no exception.

Through developing our relationships with leading companies such as Braskem and Covestro we are confident we have found the right partners.

Bio-Polyethylene

Poligras Tokyo GT turf fibres (filaments) are made from polyethylene, a non-toxic, highly recyclable plastic. I’m Green™ polyethylene is a revolutionary bioplastic from Brazilian manufacturer, Braskem. It is made from sugar cane, a renewable resource, instead of using traditional fossil fuel production processes.

Capturing CO2 and reusing it in the value chain

All Poligras Tokyo GT hockey surfaces are installed over an elastic layer that provides key performance and player welfare benefits as part of the system.

Sport Group now offers a revolutionary new polymer cardyon® in our elastic layer binders. Produced by Covestro, one of the world’s leading polymer suppliers, cardyon® uses CO2 captured from factory emissions as a raw material in polymer production.

This not only prevents CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere but brings the carbon dioxide back into the value chain.

2. Follow strict social responsibility and ethical purchasing practices

Braskem uses sugar cane in Brazil for polyethylene production, sourcing the material from local sugar cane suppliers. Cultivation of the sugar cane is done without artificial irrigation and a high proportion of natural fertilisers (ashes and vinasse). To protect workers’ rights, Braskem has committed its ethanol suppliers to a ‘code of conduct’ through the National Commitment to Social Assistance programme.

I’m Green™ polyethylene production does not compete with sugar production, it enhances the process. Sugar cane is pressed multiple times to extract the syrup. It is only the third pressing of the sugar cane that is used for bio-polyethylene production, which is not high enough quality for sugar production. We are not using raw sugar cane instead of it being used to make sugar, we are using pressed sugar cane after it has already been used to make sugar. This ensures that bio-polyethylene production doesn’t complete with food resources.

3. Continue to maximise durability

No other measure reduces the impact on the climate and the environment as much as the lifetime of a product. For this reason, surfaces offered by the Sport Group brands have always been extremely robust, durable and low maintenance, which means they support intensive use over many years.

Sport Group companies have also developed a number of intelligent technologies to help counteract the aging process caused by use, radiation, humidity, heat and extreme cold.

  • Robust protection against UV radiation and degradation

  • Entanglement technology – high resistance against wear

  • Weather resistance – resistant to heat and freezing temperatures

  • Cooling technology – reduces the temperature on the pitch.

  • Highly efficient, expert cleaning

  • Moisture reserve technology – supports low water consumption

  • Shockpad underlay technology that can be reused under multiple pitch surfaces.

  • Incorporation of recycled and renewable materials into shockpad layers

4. Don’t compromise on performance or player welfare

Sport Group brands have developed a reputation for their quality and performance. Focussing on sustainability is great, but not if it compromises on performance or player welfare. Our robust in-house R&D processes help ensure that Poligras Tokyo GT is not only great for the environment, but it delivers the same high performance that our clients expect.

5. Relook at our recycling and reuse management

To be able to offer to the market Green Technology, we knew it was imperative that we also provide customers with a comprehensive recycling programme at the end of the turf’s natural life. We wanted the programme to include the reusing of individual components as well as practical recycling solutions for the entire synthetic turf system.

Through leading recycling partners, Sport Group companies provide a recycling process for the entire artificial turf. It is first cut into sheets, then shredded and broken down into its components. Infill granules can be used to produce rubber flooring or moulding parts and the turf fibres and the substrate can be melted and recycled in the plastics processing industry.

Thermal recycling of renewable raw materials releases only as much CO2 as the plants have absorbed during their growth.

6. Develop our green portfolio of products

After much research and testing Sport Group businesses now have Green Technology products specifically engineered for hockey:

Poligras Tokyo GT – Hockey Turf

The turf of Tokyo 2020 and the first synthetic turf which features filaments made from over 60% renewable raw materials. It comes with the same performance properties as our conventional polyethylene but is made from sustainably grown sugar cane.

Polybase GT – Elastic Layer

Polybase GT is Sport Group’s Green Technology e-layer. This combines the well-known benefits of in-situ elastic layers with the environmental benefits of a recycled product and a revolutionary new technology.

Our partner, German polymer manufacturer Covestro, is the first company in the world to successfully use the greenhouse gas CO2 as a material for the manufacture of plastics and thus prevent it from entering the atmosphere.

This climate-friendly product called cardyon® is used in Polybase GT as a component of the binder to provide a permanent elastic binding of the rubber granules.

Two turfs at Tokyo 2020 use the revolutionary Polybase GT, making them green on the top and the bottom.

 

 Result

Climate Positive Hockey.

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A new generation of highly sophisticated products and methods that combine the latest expertise from the plastics industry with the functional and environmental benefits of renewable resources and new resource-conserving technologies.

 
 
  • The world’s first elite level sustainable turf made from 60% sugar cane.

  • The world’s first elastic layer incorporating CO2 as a raw material in polymer production.

  • We are saving CO2. By using sugar cane (bio-polyethylene) instead of traditional oil-based polyethylene almost 4 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of pitch filament material can be saved. For an entire hockey pitch this corresponds to a saving of approx. 28 tonnes of CO2.

  • Improved water efficiency for turfs. We are committed to reducing water while still achieving Olympic level performance. Tokyo requires 2/3 less water than Sydney and 1/3 less water than London.

  • World-wide partnerships with the world’s best ingredient and component providers: Braskem and Covestro, who are the first company in the world to successfully use CO2 as a material for the manufacture of plastic preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

  • Socially responsible material sourcing, including the harvesting of raw materials (sugar cane) using environmentally friendly cultivation practices which don’t compete with food production and follow strict protection of rights for workers.

  • An increased service life of the entire pitch system due to improvements in intelligent technologies and the use of renewable in-situ elastic layers within the turf system, that also minimise the use of fibre materials and rubber granules.

  • Best practice recycling and refuse disposal programme for the entire pitch system.

  • Improved production with a modern, energy-efficient machinery fleet. We operate an ISO 50001-compliant energy management system, which is independently audited regularly. Our manufacturing bases in Europe and Australia means short delivery distances and allows us to minimise our carbon footprint.

 
 
 
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