Diligent synthetic regimes key to mitigating microplastics concerns

Diligent synthetic regimes key to mitigating microplastics concerns: Users of synthetic turf are being encouraged to show a much greater commitment to ongoing maintenance requirements to enable both the sports and landscaping sectors to mitigate concerns about microplastic contamination, according to ESTC (EMEA Synthetic Turf Council).

Having seen a European report suggest that synthetic turf fibres pose a seawater contamination risk, the trade association for the synthetic turf industry has highlighted the considerations and maintenance requirements users need to be aware of in order to maximise sustainability.

Diligent synthetic regimes key to mitigating microplastics concerns

Diligent synthetic regimes key to mitigating microplastics concerns

ESTC recently commissioned a preliminary study on yarn wear with the University of Osnabruck. The study found frequently used synthetic sports pitches generally start to weaken and wear in the second half of their service life, primarily due to sustained exposure to the sun. As the surfaces weaken, they become more susceptible to wear, especially in high-use areas such as goalmouths on sports fields and under play equipment in landscape and recreational applications.

As a result, Professor Alastair Cox, Technical Director at ESTC has reminded synthetic turf users of their maintenance obligations throughout the full lifespan of their surface.

Professor Cox said: “As an industry, we’re very aware that for the many benefits synthetic turf brings to communities, it is a plastic-based product that will degrade over time just like many other man-made products. It is imperative that those installing the surfaces remember that while synthetic turf has much lower maintenance requirements than natural grass, it is not completely maintenance-free. As a result, owners should be fully committed to implementing measures which ensure good performance and minimal environmental impact, as well as protecting user welfare and product warranties.”

“The first step is to identify high-wear areas – which will vary from field to field – and anticipate where and when they are most susceptible to the wearing of the turf fibres. From there, the owners should have a duty of care to maintain the surface in the correct manner. By investing in, and regularly using, specialist maintenance equipment that is capable of capturing loose fibres and fibre debris, synthetic turf owners are able to capture and dispose of them in a responsible way that prevents them from escaping into the environment and becoming microplastic pollution.”

The advice from ESTC follows its pledge to support sustainable alternatives to granular rubber infill (polymeric infill) as the synthetic turf industry navigates the EU restrictions set to be imposed on the product category. The European Commission’s decision to prohibit the sale of intentionally added microplastics including synthetic and recycled infill (polymeric infill) such as Styrol Butadiene Rubber (SBR) will come into effect from 2031. The Commission will prohibit the sale of microplastics and products to which microplastics have been deliberately added which could release those microplastics when used.

Professor Cox added: “Sustainable infills such as cork, wood, chip and natural plant mixes, as well as non-infill turf systems, have been available to buy for a number of years now, but we recognise the need to educate the marketplace on how important it is to look beyond the price of infill and consider environmental impact in order to establish these as the preferred options.

“As an industry, we will be working together closely to raise the profile of more sustainable infills and responsible maintenance regimes to ensure the market continues to reduce its environmental impact as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”

For more information on ESTC, visit www.estc.info.

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