Synthetic Turf Industry Readies Itself for New Environmental Standards

ESTC Press Release

The synthetic turf industry has set its sights on the introduction of new environmental standards to prevent companies from making unsubstantiated environmental claims about their products.

At a workshop hosted in Brussels on 12 December, ESTC (EMEA Synthetic Turf Council) brought industry together to provide insights on the intended application of the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology.

PEF Category Rules (PEFCR) is a framework established by the European Commission to offer a standardized method for calculating and communicating the environmental performance of products throughout their life cycle. The ESTC is close to finalising a set of Category Rules for synthetic turf.

Led by ESTC’s appointed European PEF consultancy, PRé-Sustainability BV, the proposed synthetic turf PEFCR, will be applicable to the assessment of the environmental footprint of systems for sports and landscaping throughout their entire life cycle. As such, the rules will be applied to raw material acquisition, manufacturing, distribution, usage and end of life practices applied by manufacturers, installers, maintenance specialists and recycling facilities.

When applied, each synthetic turf system will be awarded a numeric PEF score, which can then be compared to a predetermined industry benchmark set out in the approved documentation.

The final draft of the PEFCR is currently under review by an external experts panel comprising representatives from FIFA; sustainability consultancy, Ecomatters BV; and sustainable development experts, RDC Environment. The PEFCR is expected to be approved and adopted by the European Commission by Spring 2024.

Professor Alastair Cox, Technical Director at ESTC said: “Like many other industries, the synthetic turf sector has recognised the need for a harmonized and unbiased approach to assessing the environmental impact of its products and has invested a great deal of resource in developing a suitable system.“Once introduced, we expect the PEFCR to have a significant impact on the way synthetic turf systems are assessed and compared by customers. This will in turn accelerate the level of innovation applied to the manufacture, installation and recycling of synthetic turf, with the aim of being an even more appealing option for those situations where natural turf alternatives are not cost-effective, feasible or sustainable.

“As we draw ever closer to a landmark development for our industry, we are encouraging all industry stakeholders – from raw material suppliers through to recycling specialists – to familarize themselves with the category rules and sharpen their focus on how they can help maximise the sustainability of the supply chain.”

To further accelerate the industry’s sustainability drive, ESTC has also developed a new Environmental Footprint Calculation Tool, which is set to be launched in early 2024. Developed in partnership with Pre-Sustainability, the new software is designed to enable companies to independently calculate the environmental footprint of their synthetic turf systems or a system’s individual components.

ESTC Publishes Industry Guide for Synthetic Turf Recycling Facilities across Europe – Press Release

ESTC Press Release

In response to an increasing need to dispose of end-of-life synthetic turf in an environmentally-sensitive way, ESTC (the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council) has launched a new guide to recycling facilities across Europe.

The launch of the guide follows over €55 million of investment from ESTC members in new responsible waste management facilities over the last 10 years.

Recognising these developments, ESTC has produced the guide: Recycling Facilities for Synthetic Turf Systems in Europe, for interested parties to easily identify and access services.

The document showcases the locations of 10 recycling facilities across Europe as well as the specific features they offer, which include mobile recycling, on-site separation and the recycling of infill, as well as the recycling of end-of-life synthetic turf.

Collectively, the Europe-wide network of recycling facilities boasts over 4.3 million m2 of processing capacity, which is equivalent to 500,000 full size football pitches.

Furthering its commitment to conscious end of life care, ESTC has also created a supporting guidance document. It highlights current options and best practice and gives an overview on the legal obligations that need to be considered before a surface is disposed of.

ESTC’s document references the EU Waste Framework Directive’s Waste Hierarchy – which aims to ensure that the management of waste is undertaken in the most responsible and sustainable way possible. The hierarchy dictates that recycling is the best option.

Stefan Diderich, Director General at the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) said: “The increase in specialty recycling services across Europe signifies a positive development in sustainability efforts within the industry. This guide is intended to be a valuable resource for members and industry stakeholders. We therefore encourage the industry to share this document with customers, suppliers and other interested parties.”

“Maximising the service life of turf and preserving quality as far as possible is key, but there will come a point when the surface is no longer fit for purpose and needs replacing. That’s when you’ll need to consider options for end-of-life disposal.”

 

To access the latest version of the guide, please visit: www.estc.info/knowledge-centre/end-of-life/

European Commission adopts measures to restrict intentionally added microplastics

The European Commission confirmed on Monday 25th September that they have now completed the adoption of the REACH restriction on the sale of intentionally added microplastics. The new restriction is intended to dramatically reduce the release of these materials into the environment. The restriction uses a broad definition of microplastics and covers all synthetic polymer particles that are below 5mm in size, non-organic, insoluble or resist degradation. Falling within this definition are the rubber and plastic infill materials used in synthetic turf surfaces.

To ensure that the many thousands of synthetic turf fields currently in use across the whole of Europe may continue to be used and maintained until they reach their end-of-life, the new restriction has granted synthetic turf infill materials a transition period of eight years, meaning the ban on the sale rubber and plastic infill materials will come into effect in September 2031.

What does this mean for the synthetic turf industry?
For current field owners the new restriction will not immediately affect the use of their fields or their maintenance; infill materials will continue to be available. ESTC does however, encourage owners of fields with rubber or plastic infills to ensure the use and maintenance of the fields is undertaken in a way that minimizes the risk of infill leaving the field. Guidance on how this can be achieved can be found at Knowledge Centre – ESTC – EMEA Synthetic Turf Council.

For new fields, it will still be possible to use polymeric infills until 2031, but field owners are advised to consider how they will maintain their fields once the ban becomes effective.
Recognizing the need to move away from rubber and plastic infill materials, the synthetic turf industry is introducing an increasing range of natural (vegetal) infill materials. including granulate cork, wood chip, olive pits, corn husks and coconut fibres. The industry is also developing surfaces that do not require any infill (4G non-filled turfs) and sand dressed surfaces.

Recycling Facilities for Synthetic Turf Systems in Europe – New Release

ESTC is pleased to share some great news, with the launch of a new industry Guide: ‘Recycling Facilities for Synthetic Turf Systems in Europe’ !

This guide aims to provide comprehensive information on companies in Europe that are actively offering recycling services for synthetic turf systems. It includes a location map infographic highlighting these companies, along with details about their facilities and features. This will enable interested parties to easily identify and access recycling services.

The increase in specialty recycling services signifies a positive development in sustainability efforts within the synthetic turf industry and the release of this document demonstrates ESTC’s commitment to encourage sustainable and responsible waste management practices.

This guide is intended to be a valuable resource for members and for industry stakeholders and we would therefore like to encourage you to share this document with your customers, suppliers and other interested parties.

The document will be updated when new recycling facilities become operational.

The latest version of the guide can be found on the ESTC website  –  Knowledge Centre (End of Life) section.

 

 

Statement in Defence of the Synthetic Turf Industry against Antitrust Allegations

ESTC is aware of the recent news regarding the European Union’s antitrust watchdog raid on companies operating in the synthetic turf industry. While we cannot comment on specific cases or companies involved, we firmly believe in the importance of fair competition and compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

As a representative of the synthetic turf industry, we emphasize our commitment to promoting a competitive market environment that benefits both consumers and businesses. Our industry has a track record of fostering innovation, providing high-quality products, and meeting the evolving needs of customers across various sectors.

The synthetic turf industry operates in a highly regulated environment and adheres to strict standards and guidelines. We are fully supportive of fair competition policies and compliance with antitrust rules. We believe that healthy competition stimulates innovation, fosters technological advancements, and ultimately benefits end-users.

We encourage the European Commission and the antitrust watchdog to conduct a thorough investigation to ensure the integrity and transparency of the market. We are confident that the synthetic turf industry, as a whole, will demonstrate its commitment to compliance and fair practices during this process.

ESTC remains dedicated to upholding the highest ethical standards and working in collaboration with regulators to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace. We are committed to providing safe, sustainable, and high-performing synthetic turf solutions to our customers while complying with all applicable laws and regulations.

Should there be any further developments regarding this matter, we will continue to cooperate with the authorities and provide any necessary information to support their investigation. We remain confident in the integrity of our industry and its commitment to fostering fair competition and delivering innovative solutions to customers.

For any inquiries or additional information, please feel free to contact the Director General/CEO of ESTC, Stefan Diderich @ stefan@estc.info.

ESTC Congress 2024

The Annual Congress of ESTC is set to take place in Porto, Portugal, from March 19 to 21, 2024.

This year’s event with the theme, “Changing the Narrative,” promises to be a dynamic and insightful gathering for professionals in the synthetic turf industry. Our comprehensive programme is designed to stimulate thought-provoking discussions and facilitate knowledge sharing across various domains.

 

KEY SESSIONS

  • Changing the Narrative
    This central theme delves into the evolving role of synthetic turf in various industries and how it’s shaping a more sustainable future. It will address misconceptions and highlight the positive impact of synthetic turf on the environment and society.
  • Technical and Regulatory Update
    Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in ESTC activities and get insights into regulatory changes and technical advancements.
  • Session on Sports
    Delve into the world of sports with presentations from prominent sports governing bodies. Learn about the latest trends and developments in sports, and how synthetic turf is changing the game. Explore the growing world of padel, a popular racquet sport, and discover how synthetic turf is shaping its future.
  • Landscaping with Synthetic Turf 
    Discover the potential of synthetic turf in landscaping applications. Learn how it can be utilized in urban environments, parks, and residential spaces to create sustainable and aesthetically pleasing landscapes.  See how the garden of the future will look like.
  • The System of the Future
    Get insights into the future of synthetic turf systems, exploring innovations in materials, installation techniques, and sustainability practices.
  • Innovation Showcase
    Member companies will have the opportunity to present their most innovative products, services and technologies. This session provides a platform for showcasing cutting-edge solutions in the synthetic turf industry.
  • Social Programme
    Connect with peers and fellow professionals during our social programme. Enjoy a guided tour of the picturesque city of Porto, experience local wines during a tasting session, and network over a delightful dinner.

The Annual ESTC Congress 2023 promises to be an engaging and enlightening event, bringing together experts and professionals in the synthetic turf industry to explore the latest trends, innovations, and opportunities while changing the narrative about synthetic turf’s impact on our world. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to be a part of this dynamic event in Porto.

Together, let’s change the narrative of synthetic turf !

REGISTRATION:

To register, please visit the event website

 

REACH Restriction intentionally added microplastics – EU voted for transition period of 8 years

On the 26thApril 2023 the EU member states voted to support a revised REACH Restriction proposal tabled by the European Commission on how to control the use of intentionally added microplastics. Based on their definition of intentionally added microplastics, this Restriction will include polymeric infill materials used in synthetic turf surfaces.

The agreed wording now proposes a transition period of eight years before the placing on the market of polymeric infill materials is prohibited – an extension from the originally proposed six years that is designed to ensure that existing synthetic turf fields containing polymeric infills can continue to be maintained until they reach end-of-life.

Having been approved by the EU’s REACH Committee the Restriction will now be scrutinised by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.  These bodies cannot change the Restriction wording but they can veto its incorporation into EU law. The two bodies have a period of three months to consider the proposed legislation. Once this process has been completed, formal notification of the amendment to the REACH Regulations to incorporate this new restriction will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and the transition period will commence.

On the assumption the official publication will take place this year, this revision of the REACH restriction means  that, in practice, as of 2031 it will no longer be allowed to buy or sell (placing on the market) polymeric infill.  However, the use of synthetic turf fields with polymeric infill will still be allowed. 

The ESTC Infill interest group is currently developing guidance on all types of infill materials, with a specific focus on non-polymeric infills that fall outside the scope of the new EU restriction.

ESTC Board elects Chair and Vice Chair

At their last meeting of the year, held on December 7 in Düsseldorf, the ESTC Board of Directors elected the new Chair and Vice Chair to the Executive Committee, for the coming 2 years.
ESTC is pleased to announce that Colin Young (Ten Cate Grass) was elected Chair and Paul Fraser (Tarkett Sports) Vice Chair.
Colin Young succeeds Friedemann Söll (Polytan), who has not only held the position of Chair for the past 2 years but has been a driving force for 15 years, playing a crucial role in the transformation of ESTO into ESTC as we know it today. Fortunately, Friedemann will continue to serve on the Board as the Immediate Past Chair. Creating this new position will facilitate the smooth handover and will ensure the Board can still rely on the outgoing Chair’s experience and expertise.  The Immediate Past Chair will have a consultative role, with no voting rights.

Colin Young :  “I’m really honoured to be taking over the Chair from Friedemann who has driven the ESTC forwards over the past several years and put us into a very strong position ready to face future challenges with lots of impending transitional legislation. We are lucky to have a strong devise board from a range of companies representing all types of ESTC members. The whole turf industry continues to grow and mature; it’s a really exciting time for us and I hope that the ESTC can continue to support the development and growth for the benefit of all members.”

Paul Fraser : “Having been part of the Board for the last two years, and leading the Marketing Pillar, I am very pleased to now take on the role of Vice Chair. I look forward to working with Colin as the new Chair, the ESTC Board and the wider membership going forward. Our industry is going through significant change and challenges however there are tremendous opportunities for us to embrace the challenges jointly and to overcome them with one voice.”

New  strategic Pillar leaders appointed 
In addition, the leaders for the 4 strategic Pillars were (re)-appointed.  Luca Girelli (Trocellen) will continue to lead the Networking Pillar, Paul Fraser handed over the responsibility of the Marketing Pillar to Amii van Werven (Intelligent Play),  Frenk Stoop (Polytex) takes over the Advocacy Pillar from Friedemann Söll and last but not least, Eric O’Donnell (Sports Labs) will head the Knowledge Pillar, succeeding Gert-Jan Kieft (Kiwa ISA Sport).  The Pillar leaders will now work on a strategy and action plan for the next year and will be sharing this with all of you shortly !

ESTC comments on the proposed ban on sale of microplastic infill

ESTC identifies risks and opportunities from the proposed ban on the sale of infill materials classified as intentionally added microplastics

ESTC (the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council) notes the publication of the European Commission’s recommendations on the introduction of restrictions for the placing of intentionally added microplastics onto the European market (Annex XVII REACH1).  The Commission’s recommendation is for a ban2 on the future sale of intentionally added microplastic infill (most commonly end of life tyre shred) for synthetic turf systems, as the most effective way to reduce microplastic emissions. The option for derogation via risk management methods (RMMs) has been removed from the proposal as it was not considered viable by the Commission to meet its reduced emissions objectives.

ESTC has adopted environmental care as its core strategy and is involved in multiple projects focused on the environment. ESTC agrees with the goals of the European Commission and ECHA to reduce the emissions of intentionally added microplastics as part of the wider European Green Deal for climate neutrality by 2050. In this light, ESTC worked hard with many stakeholders (including international sports federations) to help develop the CEN Technical Report 175193 for infill control and mitigation. Independent research has shown the efficacy4 of RMMs, but the Commission appears to be concerned about the practicability and enforceability of such methods and has therefore opted for the ban option.

ESTC notes that the European Commission is proposing a six year transition period before the new restriction becomes effective. However, current surfaces are expected to be usable for at least 10 years and many existing fields may struggle to achieve their full-service life due to an inability to purchase the materials required for on-going maintenance, forcing communities, schools and sports clubs to either replace their surfaces prematurely or risk deteriorations in the quality and safety of their fields. ESTC therefore calls for the transition period to be extended to at least 10 years to enable those that have recently invested in new fields to obtain the full operational life they anticipated.

ESTC is pleased to note that the proposed ban will be at the point of sale, putting the responsibility for compliance onto suppliers and installation/maintenance contractors and not field owners, which should simplify the adoption of legislation.
The proposed legislation does not require any retrospective actions to be undertaken to current fields and this is also welcomed by ESTC as this would have been a significant burden on facility owners and operators. ESTC does, however, encourage everyone to ensure their fields are managed and maintained responsibly so they do not allow infill to migrate into the environment including the adoption of the guidance outlined in CEN Technical Report 17519 for all new fields that will use microplastic infills during the transition phase.

The ban of intentionally added microplastic will not change the benefits of turf systems to the millions of people enjoying them each year. Synthetic turf fields offer high quality and long-lasting surfaces that allow communities throughout Europe to benefit from the health, social inclusion and mental wellbeing advantages that sport and physical activity provides in a wide range of different climates.

This decision will be a challenge to the majority of European markets in which infills classified as microplastics have proven to be the most popular. Although a lot of research and development efforts have been taking place in the period leading up to the decision of the European Commission resulting in very promising alternative solutions, the industry will find it challenging in all markets to fully transition within the proposed period of 6 years. This further reinforces the request to extend the transition period to at least 10 years to allow for a more controlled changeover.

ESTC awaits full clarification on the wording of the new restriction as it works its way through the legislative process, and to working with all relevant stakeholders to support the development and implementation of turf systems towards a greener future that can be enjoyed throughout Europe.

Links:
https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/05bd96e3-b969-0a7c-c6d0-441182893720
2https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/comitology-register/screen/documents/083921/1/consult?lang=en
3 CEN TR 17519 Guidance on how to minimise infill dispersion into the environment – for a copy, contact your national standards institute
4https://www.estc.info/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Ecoloop-Report-Effectiveness-RMMs.pdf

 

PAH content of infill materials : EU regulation becomes effective today

July last year, the European Union (EU) published Regulation (EU) 2021/1199  controlling the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) content of infill materials. The law becomes effective from today 9th August 2022. This means that all infills made from:

  • rubber or other vulcanized or polymeric material
  • of recycled or virgin origin,
  • or obtained from a natural source,

must not have a total content sum (of the eight specified PAHs) of more than 20 mg/kg.

Additionally, all infill materials places on the market must be marked with a unique identification number of the batch to allow traceability to enable the compliance of the batch to the new regulation to be verified.
Enforcement of new regulation will be undertaken by national authorities in each member state.

Whilst primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with the new law will be with the companies that produce the infill, contractors installing synthetic turf surfaces or replacing infill as part of a maintenance contract can also be considered to be placing the product onto the market (i.e., they are selling it to the field owner) so they also need to ensure the products they offer and use are compliant.

As stated in the new law, infill materials that are currently in use, may remain in place and continue to be used.