“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” We’ve all heard the catchphrase time and time again. It has helped popularize the idea that we can solve the plastics problem with recycling, but the approach is flawed. The truth is, no amount of reducing, reusing, or recycling will change the fundamental issues with products that are unsustainable from the start. Plastic will pollute our environment: no matter when it’s discarded — after one use or many — it can only contribute toxins back into the ecosystem.
That’s why NFW grounds our work in a different set of principles that adhere to nature’s definition of circularity: Start well, stay clean, end well.
By starting with only natural ingredients and reformatting those ingredients without fundamentally changing their chemical identity, we ensure that our materials can return to nature safely at the end of their useful life.
The idea that shoes or handbags or car interiors can feed the soil at the end of their life is radical. But in nature, there is no waste, so why shouldn’t we strive for the same?
This is the concept behind NFW’s new Endwell Program. We’ve understood from the start that because our materials are biobased and plastic-free they can safely return to the ground, and now we’re launching our first partnership to do just that.
Plastic has become so ubiquitous in our world that it’s used in places you wouldn’t expect, including, it turns out, equestrian footing. If you’ve ever watched a horse race, you’ve probably assumed the horses are running on dirt. But the truth is, the ground beneath them — and therefore the air and runoff in the arenas around them — is in large part plastic fibers. In fact, a minimum of 15,000 pounds of plastic is added to equestrian footing in a single 20,000 square foot arena, something that didn’t sit well with Alex Carr, cofounder and CEO of ArenaMend.
Traditional plastic footing being installed in an arena.
“For years, we had been searching for an alternative to nylon and plastic fibers in footing. We looked at materials from all over the world in search of a partner and materials supplier with the scientific knowledge to help us develop the first natural, plastic-free performance footing. NFW was the only company that could,” Carr said. “With NFW we found innovators that shared our same mindset on circular and sustainable materials that do not compromise performance.”
Earlier this month, ArenaMend launched Noviun™, developed in partnership with NFW, the first-ever plastic-free fiber amendment for the equestrian community. NFW produces Noviun™ using a combination of our existing materials and raw natural inputs to create performance fiber that adds stability and absorption to arenas and tracks.
“Current fiber options in our industry are shredded textile fibers, geotextiles, crumb rubber, and recycled foams. They all contain harmful chemicals and are plastic or petroleum based. While they may be effective, they result in trillions of microplastics and harmful chemical shedding that affects earth, horse, and rider,” Carr explained. “The fiber that we created with NFW is strategically engineered to offer the same or better absorption, strength, and grip while also eliminating the health and environmental hazards existing materials generate. Without the chemical and plastic pollutants, we believe the overall health of the horse and rider will improve and reduce harmful contaminations in the local watershed.”
What’s more, because the material is made entirely from plants and minerals, it supports the soil with a carbon source from plants.
“This is true circularity. The elements used in our material are returned, by nature, to the form they started as, with the value add of providing durable performance to horse arena footing,” said soil scientist and NFW Circularity Engineer Stephen Taylor, Ph.D. “With this program we’re keeping the plant ingredients that give NFW materials their amazing properties in the terrestrial carbon cycle, something I’ve not seen many examples of in the material economy.”
Noviun™ is one proof point for how NFW materials can safely return to the earth — and, in this case, eliminate thousands of pounds of plastic pollution in the process.
“One of the most incredible things about this partnership with ArenaMend is the force-multiplier effect for our work to transition the supply chain away from plastics. Not only do NFW performance materials displace plastics in consumers goods like apparel or footwear, but they now displace plastic even en route back to the ground,” said NFW President Steve Zika.