Shock Pad goes underneath play surfaces.
Shock Pad goes underneath play surfaces.

 

Leave it to an Israeli company to make a technological and environmental breakthrough in the recycling of non-biodegradables. Shock Pad, invented by Pashut Yarok (“Simply Green”), is the first-ever use of polyethylene waste materials for safety flooring.

Pashut Yarok, which manufactures and imports synthetic grass, intends Shock Pad as an underlay to all kinds of common surfaces, such as rubber, parquet, tarmac, concrete and artificial grass.

“We were discouraged by everyone from even trying to create this product,” CEO Gai Sa’ar tells ISRAEL21c at the Pashut Yarok factory in Moshav Givati, near Ashdod, where Shock Pad is manufactured for its GreenPlay line of products.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least 10 professionals in relevant fields told us that it had been tried before – and that it is physically impossible to meld polyethylene scraps into a cohesive mat.”

But Sa’ar and his two partners were determined to find a way to cut costs while protecting the environment.

He uses the example of public playgrounds to illustrate how his team came to conceive of Shock Pad.

“Conventionally, the asphalt in parks with slides, swings and monkey bars was covered with tire rubber, to protect kids when they fall,” he explains. “Over the past two years, this has been replaced by a form of synthetic grass covering a sort of elastic foam imported from a company in Italy. This new plastic material simply creates yet another pollutant.”

Pashut Yarok was importing this material to underlay its synthetic grass for sale to public parks, private gardens, traffic circles and various other clients and venues.

But, he says, “Not only is it expensive — and not only is it a pollutant — but it isn’t such a great shock absorber either, because you need thick slabs of it for the desired effect.”

This is how the idea to create its own padding came to Pashut Yarok, which has existed since 2001, but has been in business in its current form since 2008.

In search of discards

The 20-person staff of Pashut Yarok (which partners with the Hoboken, New Jersey-based company Garden Mark) spent eight months experimenting with gluing and compressing polyethylene scraps – the stuff used to pad and protect electrical and electronic appliances inside the boxes in which they are delivered – to create their product.

“We often got discouraged along the way,” says Sa’ar. “But we had a gut feeling that we would eventually succeed, in spite of the naysayers.”

Sa’ar goes to a closet in his office and takes out a square of compressed polyethylene scraps – the first prototype that came close to the final product his team had envisioned.

“Once we achieved this result, we knew we were on the right track,” he says. “That’s why I keep this as a reminder.”

The one problem that Sa’ar and his team had not anticipated, however, was a shortage of polyethylene waste. Though Pashut Yarok has been collecting the tons of material that Israeli factories generate and discard every week, it is still not sufficient for Shock Pad mass production. And so far, the company has been unable to collect the many additional tons discarded by private individuals.

As a result, though Shock Pad has been well-received in the Israeli market for its high quality and low price (approximately NIS 20 per meter,) it has had to turn away a number of new customers.

This has sent Sa’ar on a mission abroad in search of – well – garbage. More accurately, he has been traveling to factories in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Germany to purchase polyethylene scraps and bring them to Israel.

Sa’ar says that once the company has the ability to collect enough discarded polyethylene for mass producing Shock Pad, the possibilities for additional implementation of the material are endless. For example, he says, it could replace the insulation foam currently used inside walls, as it is both water- and fire-resistant.

“Being profitable while protecting the environment is what we are all about,” he concludes.

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