Sports 101

The Rise of Infill

Choosing the right synthetic turf system has recently gotten a lot more complicated. Since 1998, synthetic turf systems mainly consisted of crumb rubber but after two decades of playing on these surfaces, field owners realized that crumb rubber didn’t meet all their needs. A lot of progress has taken place in recent years, offering a multitude of infill, pad and turf options that can be designed specifically for your geography, sport and maintenance expectations. Let us help you sort through the information and make sense of all the options. Start with our Infill 101 section and when that starts to make sense move on over to Infill 201 for expanded information.

Infill Types

Today's market offers a variety of infill options. The major categories are organics, coated sands, virgin polymers, and crumb rubber.

Crumb Rubber
Crumb Rubber
DEFINED: Crumb rubber is made from ground up car and truck tires.
Crumb rubber is widely used thanks to its availability and relatively low product cost.
Advantages
  • Cost
  • Resilience
  • Non-abrasive
  • Availability
Challenges
  • Offensive odor
  • Retains significant heat
  • Dirty
  • 90+ chemicals
  • Must be properly disposed of at end of life
Virgin Polymer
Virgin Polymer
DEFINED: A virgin polymer is made from known components, specifically for sports.
Virgin polymers play very similar to crumb rubber systems so if field owners are looking for familiar playability they have their choice of two categories of virgin polymers: EPDM and TPE. The distinct advantage of these products over crumb rubber is that they are virgin, so they are made from known components which can be modified to enhance the product and avoid specific chemicals.
Advantages
  • Resilience
  • Consistency
  • Non-abrasive
  • Designed to include chemicals known to be safe
Challenges
  • More expensive
  • Quality control of foreign-sourced material can be an issue
Organic
Organic
DEFINED: There are numerous organic options available today including walnut shells, cork and cork/coconut blends.
There are numerous organic options today including walnut shells, cork granules, coconut fiber and blends of these products.
Advantages
  • Free of chemicals
  • Natural
  • Can be composted
  • Play more like natural surface
Challenges
  • Additional maintenance required to replace product breakdown
  • Some products in category require irrigation for optimum performance
  • Some products tend to float and migrate with heavy rains.
Coated Sand
Coated Sand
DEFINED: Coated sands such as Envirofill, are especially round granules of sand coated with an acrylic polymer.
Coated sands offer superior durability and consistent performance. The roundness of the sand avoids compaction and the antimicrobial infused coating inhibits the growth of bacteria in the infill profile.
Advantages
  • Combination of natural and synthetic product made specifically for turf
  • Sustainable: Can be used for two lifecycles (16 year warranty)
  • Consistent Gmax and playing surface over turf lifecycle.
  • Limited migration
Challenges
  • More abrasive
  • Initial perception is often too firm
Looking for expert grade infill? Check out our Sports 201 section.
Read More
Frequently Asked Questions
What role does infill play in a system?
Infill provides ballast and stability in a turf system, keeping fibers standing tall and creating the support an athlete needs when they run across a field.
How does infill affect performance?
Infill affects ball roll, how fast an athlete can move across a field and how safely they can play on a field. It can have a big impact on performance of a field and in many cases a bigger impact than any other component of the system.
How many kinds of infill are there?
Though we highlight only 5 categories above, the number of infill types exceeds 15+. Most fall within each of the 4 categories and present different benefits and best use cases.
Does the kind of infill you use matter?
Yes! Each infill category has its strengths and weaknesses. Often an infill will work better in one area of the country than another. Weighing the factors unique to your own situation is essential in choosing the right option. USGreentech has 3 of the most innovative, highest performing products that fall within each alternative infill category above.
How much does infill cost?
For a full-size athletic field the cost will vary based on many many factors, described here. Once the field owner commits to putting in a pad, the increase to go to a progressive infill over crumb rubber can be as little as $50,000.
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