BEVERLY — City officials say the artificial turf that is being replaced at Beverly High School will be reused or recycled, but the company that is performing the work is not disclosing details of that plan.
Disposal of old artificial turf has become a growing environmental concern as communities across the country replace their original turf fields, which have a useful life span of eight to 10 years. An average field has 40,000 pounds of plastic carpet and 400,000 pounds of infill material like tire crumbs and sand, according to a 2017 report by the Synthetic Turf Council.
As of Wednesday several hundred rolls of the old turf field at Beverly High School were lying next to the field and in the parking lot as the new turf is set to be installed. Act Global, the Texas-based company that has been contracted by the city for the job, did not return several messages asking how the old material will be disposed.
Mayor Mike Cahill said the company has told him that all of the material will be reused or recycled in some fashion. The company will try to sell the used turf for use in such places as batting cages and mini golf courses, and the infill material to be used in the making of plastic timber, Cahill said.
Cahill said there is no requirement in Act Global's contract with the city for the company to specify where the material is going and how it will be used.
"We believe we're dealing with a reputable company and that's what they've assured us," Cahill said.
Cahill said he would speak with company officials again and ask for further reassurance that the material will be reused or recycled.
"They're relevant issues, for sure," he said.
According to a 2019 investigation by the nonprofit news organization FairWarning, used artificial turf — which includes multiple layers of materials like plastic grass, sand, and crumb rubber from ground-up tires — is difficult to recycle and often ends up in landfills.
In a letter to the Oaks Bluff Planning Board last October regarding a proposed turf field for Martha's Vineyard, Amanda Farber of the volunteer advocacy group Safe Healthy Playing Fields listed several instances in which companies told communities they were going to recycle or reuse old turf but never provided proof.
"The industry often vaguely refers to products made from recycled turf, but has offered little in the way of proof of those products in a transparent manner or on a scale that is practical and viable," the letter said.
Farber said in the letter that there were no completed artificial turf recycling facilities in the United States at the time. She said the turf often ends up "landfilled, incinerated, dumped, or stockpiled."
Act Global is under no legal obligation to recycle or reuse the material or to disclose in writing how they will handle it. The contract between the city and the company says only that demolished materials become the contractor's property and shall be removed from the site "at the Contractor's option and in full compliance with all applicable disposal regulations."
A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said the state does not have specific regulations regarding the disposal of artificial turf. The materials must be disposed of or recycled following waste disposal regulations like any other waste material, spokesman Ed Coletta said in an email.
Act Global, which is based in Texas and has offices in The Netherlands and Cyprus, bills itself as the "world's leading artificial grass manufacturer." Its website says the company is committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship, and says using artificial turf saves water, eliminates the need for pesticides, and reduces pollution from maintenance equipment and mowers. But the site does not say how the company disposes of old turf.
Beverly was one of the first communities on the North Shore to build an artificial turf field, installed at the high school in 2011. Officials said the turf field requires less maintenance and allows for more use in all types of weather.
In February, Cahill asked the City Council to approve spending $750,000 to replace the field, saying its useful life was coming to an end. Act Global bid $642,085 for the job, the lowest bid the city received.
Emma Basso, the treasurer of the Ward 2 Civic Association, said she brought up the issue of the artificial turf disposal at a meeting of the association months ago when she learned that the city would be getting a new field. Basso said the city should hold Act Global accountable for where the material ends up.
"They keep on pushing sustainability in the city," she said. "If there's no accountability to dispose of it in an ethical way, why are we using that company?"
Mike Collins, the city's commissioner of public works and engineering, said the new field should be ready by the time high school sports teams begin fall practice in August.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.