The shells of Missouri's black walnuts were used to clean the Statue of Liberty during a past restoration project
The shells of Missouri's black walnuts were used to clean the Statue of Liberty during a past restoration project. Today the shells are being turned into Safeshell, a product which will make synthetic turf fields better and safer.
The producer of the black walnut shells used in both situations — cleaning the Statue of Liberty and Safeshell — is Hammons Products Co. of Stockton.
Use of the black walnut shell in industrial power cleaning may be old news; however its use in Safeshell, a trademarked product of USGreentech, is new.
Steve A. Rutledge, vice president of the nut shell division of Hammons, said Hammons and USGreentech, a technology firm in the artificial turf industry and based in Ohio, have been working together for three years on development of a product which is now called Safeshell.
In many artificial turf fields — athletic fields for baseball, soccer, football and other sports — to keep the field's turf blades in place and provide a softer and safer playing surface rubberized pellets or crumbs are used. However, several health issues and safety concerns were raised regarding the rubber crumbs which are used as infill.
National media news stories have indicated federal agencies are investigating the health and safety risks of playing on a synthetic field which uses rubber crumbs from recycled tires and other rubber products.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, more than 11,000 playgrounds and athletic fields across America use pulverized tires as pellets or rubber crumbs to soften artifice turf and improve its overall appearance and performance. It initially was considered a great option for recycling tires.
However, the concerns of healthy and safety led the artificial turf industry to seek a replacement for the rubber crumbs, and this is where USGreentech has emerged.
The company is in the business of making infill for artificial turf fields and has come up with several options for the fine particles or materials placed in the base of the turf field. The goal of infill is to improve footing, make the field softer, reduce injuries and keep turf blades upright.
Several different and alternative fills are marketed by USGreentech as being safer, more environmentally friendly, healthier and more natural. One of them is Safeshell, made out of the shell of black walnuts provided by Hammons.
"The first fields (to use Safeshell) are three soccer fields in New York City in the East River," Rutledge said.
He said the first fields using Safeshell as an infill are built on piers placed into the East River for use by youth and community soccer teams, and coincidently the players can see the Statue of Liberty.
On the website of USGreentech, there is plenty of information about infills and Safeshell.
According to a quote from Jeff Sangrand, Brooklyn Bridge Park's director of operations, "Safeshell emerged as the best infill to meet our commitment to organic products."
In its marketing of Safeshell, the Ohio company claims it plays cooler than crumb rubber, keeps surfaces from heating up too quickly and absorbs water with minimal expansion. In its FAQs section, Safeshell was said to reduce surface temperatures on artificial turf fields by up to 38 degrees when compared to a crumb rubber infill.
It is safe, organic, requires low maintenance and is grown in the United States.
Along with concerns over health and safety, the rubber crumbs led to high heat and extremely hot conditions for athletes playing in the sun despite cool temperatures in the air or in naturally warm, humid climates/conditions.
Rutledge said USGreentech is in the process of using Safeshell in 10 fields or complexes across the country and is planning to have it in fields for a wide range of sports as its business grows.
He said the Ohio company already has purchased 1.5 million pounds of shells as demand has grown.
For other uses of the shells from a black walnut, go to Hammon's website, https://black-walnuts.com/, and check out nutshell products.