The Environmental Value of Synthetic Turf with Synthetic Turf Council’s Rick Doyle

July 2, 2015

 
John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of Green Is Good. This is the ISRI edition of Green Is Good and we are in beautiful downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. We are honored to have with us today Rick Doyle. Rick, you are the CEO of the Synthetic Turf Council? Rick Doyle: That’s correct. John Shegerian: It’s an honor to have you on today. For our listeners and our viewers out there that have never heard you before or seen you before, before we get talking about the Synthetic Turf Council, share the Rick Doyle journey leading up to becoming the CEO of the Synthetic Turf Council. Rick Doyle: I’m happy to do it. I and my wife moved to Atlanta in 2006. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: I had run a large industry trade association prior to that from our home in Philadelphia. But our daughters moved to Clemson, University of Georgia. John Shegerian: Nice. Rick Doyle: So we followed them down. I wanted to stay in this industry. John Shegerian: Good dad. Rick Doyle: I reached out and Synthetic Turf Council asked me to become their first CEO. John Shegerian: Great. And for our listeners out there and viewers, to learn more about Rick’s organization you can go to www.syntheticturfcouncil.org. What is the Synthetic Turf Council? Rick Doyle: We were founded at the end of 2003 to be the voice of the industry and to advocate, to market and to educate our members in North America. Since then, we have grown to become an international organization. We still represent just the North American market, but we have members from Europe, from Mexico and from Canada. John Shegerian: You know, Rick, when we were growing up, it became a big deal when football stadiums, baseball stadiums got what was then called “artificial turf.” Is synthetic turf and artificial turf the same thing or am I mixing and matching words the wrong way? Rick Doyle: It has evolved significantly over the years. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: From what you’re talking about. John Shegerian: Right. Rick Doyle: Today there is an infield iteration of synthetic turf. So between the grass blades, there is an infield. Typically it’s crumb rubber – recycled car and truck tires. John Shegerian: Right. Rick Doyle: And it provides resilience, durability, and it helps protect the grass blades. John Shegerian: Got you. So it has evolved tremendously, and that’s why the term of art is now “synthetic turf.” No longer are the old terms used anymore. Rick Doyle: Well, some of the terms are still brands that are being sold today. John Shegerian: OK. I got you. How large is this industry? Rick Doyle: We estimate it’s about a billion-dollar industry here in North America. John Shegerian: A billion a year? Rick Doyle: A billion a year, yes. John Shegerian: Got you. And what is the fastest-growing segment of the Synthetic Turf Council industry? Rick Doyle: There are many applications. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: But the fastest-growing, I believe, is still the landscape and recreation market. The reason is because it saves water, eliminates the use of pesticides and fertilizers and requires very little maintenance. John Shegerian: So as the water drought continues in California and many other parts, it’s really a great driver of your industry because more people should just take out their lawns, get rid of all this wasteful watering really and put in synthetic turf, which is still very aesthetically pretty but takes a lot less effort. Rick Doyle: Well, it’s one of the “hardscapes” – and I’m using a term – that California wants its residents to replace grass with. There are a number of water districts or counties that are providing financial incentives to residents to do just that. John Shegerian: You are speaking tomorrow here at the ISRI annual convention. What are you speaking about tomorrow specifically here? Rick Doyle: I am speaking about synthetic turf and the use of recycled materials in the industry. John Shegerian: So the direct relationship between synthetic turf and the recycling industry is a very close nexus. Rick Doyle: Our industry uses 30 million recycled auto and truck tires every year out of the 300 million tires that are retired every year. John Shegerian: So 10 percent is being recycled through your industry? Rick Doyle: Correct. John Shegerian: How much is that growing every year? Is that growing by what percentage approximately? Rick Doyle: Ten to 15 percent conservatively. John Shegerian: Wow. So that is a great reuse of the rubber instead of throwing that into landfills or burning it or ending up in oceans or rivers. The fact that it’s going back into your products is great for the environment, great for the world at large. Rick Doyle: Well, eventually something has to be done with the crumb rubber and the synthetic turf when it reaches the end of its useful life. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: So that is one of the challenges. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: Because it’s costly to develop alternatives for recycling so a lot of the turf is reused rather than recycled right now because it’s not economically feasible for the owners to recycle. They would much rather spend less money and send the material, if it hasn’t been reused, to the landfill, which is a shame and something our industry is working hard to solve. John Shegerian: What are the professional applications? Are many football, baseball and other sports facilities using your products more than ever now now that there’s a rubber component that also protects there multimillion-dollar players? Rick Doyle: On the sports field side. John Shegerian: Yeah. Rick Doyle: Since synthetic turf can be used 24/7, which isn’t possible with a grass field, it’s a great option. So a lot of colleges and schools are switching to synthetic turf. About 13 NFL stadiums are synthetic. Each team has a practice field that is synthetic turf. On the landscape and recreations side, I’ve mentioned the benefits, but as a result, it provides an accessible surface for playgrounds so kids who have never been able to navigate a grass playground or some other kind of playground have this opportunity because of synthetic turf. John Shegerian: Wow. Rick Doyle: And rooftops and even landfills are now being closed with synthetic turf. John Shegerian: Over them? Rick Doyle: Over them. John Shegerian: Wow. So what’s the science show in terms of if you or I were football owners and we were at the annual NFL meeting and we were doing a comparison of our stadiums – I have natural grass in mine, you have synthetic turf in yours, maybe one of our colleagues has some other type of field in his – which is the safest? Who has the least amount of injuries? What does the science and the numbers show? Rick Doyle: It’s been carefully studied by the world organization for soccer – FIFA. John Shegerian: Yeah. Rick Doyle: And they have determined that there is no difference in terms of injury rates. John Shegerian: No kidding. Rick Doyle: But I sit on an NFL committee, the purpose of which is to make sure that every synthetic turf field and every grass field plays similarly. John Shegerian: So it evens the playing field, so they all play similarly in terms of speed and efficiency and playability? Rick Doyle: Let me just restate: So the NFL wants all the synthetic turf fields to play the same. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: And they want all the grass fields to play the same. John Shegerian: Oh, that makes sense. OK. Are there any other fields that are possible besides those two? It’s either your state-of-the-art or it is grass? There’s nothing in between. Rick Doyle: Actually, there is a hybrid. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: Which is grass and synthetic, and that surface is used in very cold climates where it’s impossible to grow grass during the football season. John Shegerian: OK. Then, how does that work? Is that working well? Rick Doyle: Yeah. It’s working. John Shegerian: The hybrid works well? Rick Doyle: Yeah. John Shegerian: It works fine. What are some of the new technologies that are cutting edge that you can speak to our audience in your industry that you are excited about that you go out and advocate and evangelize about that that’s what you do as the CEO of the Synthetic Turf Council? Rick Doyle: One of the big innovations that has been introduced recently significantly cools the synthetic turfs. Synthetic turf is made out of plastic, so in direct sunlight it gets very hot, so you need to manage the play of your players just as you would if they were playing on grass. They’ve been able to introduce a new technology that brings the temperature down so it’s very playable. John Shegerian: Got you. Got you. What are some of the marketing and educational programs that your council works on on a regular basis, and do you have an annual conference? Rick Doyle: We have two conferences a year. They’re basically educational conferences. We host webinars that educate buyers and end users on quality and performance and maintenance of their synthetic turf sports fields. We have on-site educational sessions for buyers and end users and our website is full of technical guidance that is all free to those who come to our website. John Shegerian: Got you. And speaking of websites, Rick Doyle’s website, as the CEO of the Synthetic Turf Council, is www.syntheticturfcouncil.org. I’m John Shegerian and I have got Rick Doyle with me. As I said he is the CEO of the Synthetic Turf Council, and we are here at the ISRI edition of Green Is Good in beautiful downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. In terms of the Council how many member companies do you have? Rick Doyle: We are in our 12th year and we currently have about 220 members. John Shegerian: And what are the benefits of being a member? Rick Doyle: Well, let me just explain first our members come from all segments of the industry. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: So not just installers, not just manufacturers but also architect and engineers, testing labs, maintenance companies. John Shegerian: Everybody in the value stream. Rick Doyle: Everyone. Yes. John Shegerian: Got you. Rick Doyle: Yes. And the benefits are – I mean, what most people join an organization for is the networking. John Shegerian: Right. Rick Doyle: The opportunity to meet the leaders in the industry and to share in some education that they would get nowhere else. John Shegerian: Got you. Is that a growing industry in terms of your membership is growing every year and more companies are cropping up every year to produce these products? Rick Doyle: There is a certain amount of consolidation in any industry and our industry is the same. But yes, our council is a reflection of the industry, and so as the industry grows, so does the council. John Shegerian: Talk a little bit about ROI. If I was looking to either put this synthetic turf in my backyard to save water at my house in California, or if I was the owner of a sports team, is there a good ROI for putting this in and saving the water and maintenance costs or is it the same as regular grass? Rick Doyle: Well, no. It depends on what. John Shegerian: Application? Rick Doyle: Well, it depends on there are many different qualities of synthetic turf. John Shegerian: Got you. Rick Doyle: So depending on which you choose, depending on what sort of base work needs to be done, the return could be four or five years. It depends on the cost of water in your particular area. John Shegerian: I got you. So the ROI really is tied to the two factors of cost of water versus the application you choose to put in for the specific use. Rick Doyle: At home, I spend $400 a month on water in the summertime. John Shegerian: Wow. Rick Doyle: So that’s significant. John Shegerian: So if I put one in my backyard and I just pick a medium grade, how long can I expect it to last? What is the durability like? Rick Doyle: Well, the durability of landscape synthetic grass is significant because you are not using it like you would a sports field, so it could last. Sports fields are warrantied for eight to 10 years. John Shegerian: Wow. And they get a lot of wear and tear. Rick Doyle: So landscape grass could last 20 or more years. John Shegerian: What final thoughts do you have for our audience about making the switch? If they’re thinking about it, or they’re looking at lots of options, what can you share with them – dos and don’ts – about assessing synthetic turf and maybe using it as an option at their school if they’re making decisions at some university or some high school level or a professional team or for just the general homeowners across the United States and around the world? Rick Doyle: I would first come to our website. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: Because it is full of information, including guidance on how to select, buy and maintain synthetic turf in all its many applications. John Shegerian: OK. Rick Doyle: But perhaps the most important thing is to consult references, to talk to those people who have synthetic turf on their field or at their home. Go look at it. Go make sure that what you’re buying is from a quality company. Perhaps a company that is Synthetic Turf Council-certified and those are identified on our website. But as in every industry, there are many different types, many different qualities, and you want to make sure that what you’re expecting meets your expectations. John Shegerian: So you have got to do your homework first. Rick Doyle: Do your homework. John Shegerian: But a great place to do the homework is at www.syntheticturfcouncil.org. Rick Doyle, it’s been an honor having you on today. Rick Doyle: Thank you, John. John Shegerian: I really appreciate you taking the time. I know you are very busy here at the ISRI convention and you’re going to be speaking tomorrow obviously. You’ve educated us and you’ve inspired us that you’re so tied to the recycling industry, especially with keeping the tires out of the landfills – 30 million-plus tires – that it’s such a great thing to have you here because you are making the world a better place and that’s why we do this show. Thank you for your time today. Thank you for your time today for watching Rick Doyle and myself here on Green Is Good. We are looking forward to having you back for our next episode. Thanks again and have a great day.