ESTC delegation delivers PEF presentation

The ESTC delivered a presentation to the European Commission this morning to convince the commission to make the synthetic turf industry part of their panel that will develop a harmonised environmental footprint methodology.

The European Union wants to develop a harmonised environmental footprint methodology that should help to determine the environmental footprint of products. Harmonising the measuring criteria will help with the correct labelling of products and should close the door on so-called ‘green-washing’ practices whereby claims or logos are being used without having been validated by a qualified and independent authority. Most of these claims are about the environmental impact or friendliness of a product.

“The ESTC is in a perfect position to explain the shortcomings of current programmes and the need for a Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology. However, the number of seats at the table is limited and the synthetic turf industry is one of many industries that want to be in on it,” explained ESTC Director General, Stefan Diderich, upon his return. “As we recently decided to actively pursue a closer relationship with institutions like the EU, today’s presentation was the first but they will definitely see us more often in the future,” he adds.

“We explained why this process is important to our industry and why we feel we could make a meaningful contribution. Our presentation was received well but we will only hear in mid-October whether our proposal has been accepted.”



ECHA makes decision on PAHs limits

The Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) has adopted its final opinion supporting the proposal for restricting eight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in granules and mulches used, for example, in synthetic turf pitches and playgrounds.

The restriction proposal lowers the total concentration limit of eight PAHs to 20 mg/kg (0.002 % by weight). The concentration limits for PAHs in mixtures supplied to the general public are currently set at 100 mg/kg or 1 000 mg/kg for each of the substances.

Following SEAC’s adoption of its final opinion, the opinions of both RAC and SEAC will be forwarded to the European Commission. The Commission will consider if the conditions for the restriction are met, prepare a draft restriction measure to amend the REACH Restrictions list (Annex XVII) and submit this for an opinion to Member States in the REACH Committee.

ESTC Director General, Stefan Diderich is very pleased with SEAC’s decision. “We are very pleased to hear that ECHA’s scientific committees support a maximum that was proposed by the industry itself. This clearly demonstrates that the synthetic turf industry is mature enough to deal with complicated issues and to implement self-regulation that serves stakeholders both within and without the industry. It fills me with pride to know that the ESTC and some of our members were amongst those supplying all necessary information and documentation that assisted in the process of drafting this recommendation. I am confident that this pro-active approach will continue to serve the industry in the future.”

Council vacancies

For some members of the ESTC Council, the term of office comes to an end in November this year.  This means that we are looking for candidates to fill these positions.  
Composition of the ESTC Council 
The Council consists of max 6 representatives from yarn and turf producing companies and max 4 representatives from companies, other than yarn and turf producing companies (plus the Executive Chairman).  The  Council members are elected for a period of 3 years and can be re-elected again.  
The Council members will be elected by all full members.  
The role of the ESTC Council
 We are fortunate to have a group of highly-committed individuals on the current Council that are willing to share their expertise and experience.  The role of an ESTC Council member is an important one, helping to create ESTC’s strategic direction and implement its objectives.  The Council members act as industry leaders in developing and promoting the work of ESTC and ensuring that ESTC serves its members effectively.
As far as time commitment is concerned, the Council meets in person 2-3 times a year and has regular phone conferences (around every 6 weeks).
Current Council members 
·            Friedemann Söll – Polytan (Vice-Chairman & Treasurer)*
·           Hein Heerink – Ten Cate (Vice-Chairman)
·            Aurélien Leblan – Labosport* 
·            Luca Girelli – Trocellen*
·            Frenk Stoop – Sekisui Alveo* 
·           Gert-Jan Kieft – Kiwa ISA Sport
·            Jaroslav Buda – Juta 
·            Massimo Seghezzi – Sit-In Sport 
·           Frédéric Rasschaert – BFS Europe
·         Susanne Thillaye – Eurofield
·         Stefan Diderich – Director General/CEO
* end of term of office in November 2019
We have 4 positions to be filled : 1 for a representative from a yarn and turf producing company and 3 for representatives from non-yarn and turf producing companies.  Note – the Council members whose term of office ends in November can be re-elected again.
Should there be more candidates than positions to be filled, a vote will occur among all full members.  
If you are interested to apply for one these positions, please let Stefan or Natasja know by September 30th, 2019 latest.

ESTC answers EU call for PEF-study

The ESTC has submitted a proposal to assist the European Union in establishing the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) for synthetic turf.

The proposal follows a call from the EU to develop a harmonised environmental footprinting methodology that can accommodate a broad suite of relevant environmental performance criteria for a variety of products and industries (EU Single Market Act II – 2012).

Harmonising the measuring criteria will help the correct labelling of products and should close the door on so-called ‘green-washing’ practices whereby claims or logos are being used randomly without having the validity verified by a qualified and independent authority. Most of these claims are about the environmental impact or friendliness of a product.

“The nature of our product and industry means that we want to be involved in drafting these criteria. The synthetic turf industry has already been working for years to develop more sustainable products and systems. Collectively firms have invested billions to this achieve this and many of them have already succeeded. All that is missing is an official framework to further guide or recognise these improvements and achievements, thereby protecting these efforts from unscrupulous companies making similar but unwarranted claims,” says ESTC Director General, Stefan Diderich.

The proposal has been drafted together with the European Carpet and Rug Association (ECRA).

“As we anticipate other industries also being eager to participate in the drafting of a Product Environmental Footprint, we have decided to join hands with ECRA in case the EU has to make a selection. The combined impact of our industries should warrant the EU including us in the drafting process.”

Synthetic turf helps MLB to deliver

Since the American Major League Baseball organization targeted Europe as a key growth market, it knew upfront that the stakes would be high for any baseball game played on European soil. The London Olympic stadium was identified as being the perfect venue. The synthetic surface temporarily installed for the fantastic event delivered the finishing touch.

Following successful baseball campaigns in Australia, Japan, Mexico and Puerto Rico, American Major League Baseball (MLB) decided that the time had come to bring the game to Europe. They were well-aware that they were in for a massive challenge. The sport certainly has a significant following in Europe but finding a suitable venue would be a challenge of a different magnitude as there is no baseball-specific venue in Europe that could accommodate large groups of fans. Knowing that Londoners are ‘big event-goers’ and that the English capital hosts sold-out events frequently, the suggestion of MLB to consider the former London Olympic Stadium was well-received. The presence of an athletics track meant that the dimensions of the venue would afford enough space to fit a baseball field. Being a former Olympic venue, London Stadium still has many, if not all, facilities and quality standards that the MLB considered vital to delivering a game of huge magnitude. As the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees quickly expressed specific interest in participating in the London Games, the MLB knew that it had secured all the ingredients necessary to establish a new benchmark. All that was left was to set for a date that would allow the preparation of the field at a time where the climate conditions would be best.

London Olympic Stadium is the home ground of West-Ham United F.C. and their summer break would be the best time-frame to change the field into a baseball field. With a concert scheduled for 1 June and a Diamond League athletics meeting scheduled for 20 and 21 July, dates in late June were be the only possibility left. All parties settled on 29-30 June 2019 to host two Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees games.

Flexible solution

With only three weeks to establish a field and another three weeks to return the venue to its official state, the decision was made to install a synthetic turf surface. Natural grass was not an option due to the little time available for the installation of the field, as well as the fact that, once removed, it couldn’t be used again in 2020. The 2019 event is the first part of a two-year deal. With rain hampering the preparations during 16 of the first 18 days, the organizers certainly counted their blessings for settling on a synthetic turf surface.

FieldTurf was contracted to produce the surface. They shipped over 15,000 square meters of its FieldTurf Vertex carpet from their plant in Auchel, France to the London venue. The carpet combines six ridged monofilament fibers that are tufted with one slit film fiber per tuft. This combination delivers an exceptional resilience and contributes to an appearance and behavior that resembles a natural turf field. A mixture of standard SBR, cryogen SBR and sand provides players with the required stability. Clay for the pitcher’s mound and home plate area, as well as dirt for the infield, was shipped in from the USA.

For the preparations, installation and removal of the field, MLB relied on input from local partners. They awarded the project to Hewitt Sportsturf and Slatter Sports Construction. Both companies are local partners for ESTC member FieldTurf Tarkett. J&E Sports, another ESTC member, was subcontracted to the project. All in all, 110 experts from the various companies were on site day and night, resulting in on-time delivery and the removal of the field in just under three days. All components used are currently safely stored in a warehouse near London to enable the use of synthetic turf for the 2020 games again.

Well received

The two games in London were the first ever at which the Red Sox faced the Yankees outside the USA. They were also the first in which both teams competed on synthetic turf. It didn’t bother either the management or players of either team. ‘It’s the first Yankees-Red Sox game out of the country, so why not a lot of firsts?‘ New York pitcher CC Sabathia remarked when asked by an AP reporter. ‘I think it will be fine,’ he added. Synthetic turf is the surface of choice in many USA lower league baseball competitions. It is also the surface used for the home grounds of MLB teams Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays. ‘I am assuming it’s like Toronto’s or Tampa’s, so it shouldn’t be an issue,’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said in the same AP article. Boone received support from Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. ‘If we had never played on turf, it would be different, but we’ve played on turf.’

All in all 50 runs were scored with the Yankees winning both games, the most ever in consecutive games between the Yankees and the Red Sox. More importantly, both games broke or met several records in MLB history. The three first-inning home runs the Red Sox had in the second game was an accomplishment that matched their earlier feat in their August 14, 1979 game. The eighth-inning homer by Didi Gregorius during this game extended the Yankees’ record of consecutive games with a home run to 31. The first game lasted for 4 hours and 42 minutes, three minutes shorter than the longest nine-inning game in MLB history. The 30 total runs scored during this game, were the second-most ever. Most importantly, perhaps, the attendance of 59,659 was the highest at any MLB game since September 28, 2003. Such attendance truly reflects the viability of hosting MLB games in Europe, while the temporary synthetic turf surface has proven its worth. ‘Around a third of the spectators at the baseball games came from overseas, generating millions of pounds for London’s hotel, restaurant and retail industries,’ London Stadium CEO Graham Gilmore said while pointing out how his venue and London had benefitted from the game. The London Stadium alone sold 80,000 pints of beer, 10,000 hotdogs and 2,600 bags of monkey nuts.

More in stock

The 2019 games were part of a two-year agreement. If things work out well, they might soon be considered the curtain-raiser for much more than just four games. ‘We are in advanced talks with MLB about a new contract from 2021 onwards,’ Gilmore announced. He knows already that in June 2020 the London Stadium will host the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. Both clubs also have a long-standing rivalry that will certainly fuel a need for victory.

Baseball fans all over Europe are eager to learn what will happen after next year’s games. Rumour has it that France is also keen to host a baseball event. If that is the case, MLB could follow suit with the American NBA and NFL and start incorporating European venues in its regular calendar. One thing for sure is that there is no need to worry about the surface or the ability of the synthetic turf industry to meet all requirements. Based on the several new records that have been set and feedback received from the fans, it can truly be said that they managed to deliver.

ESTC and STC join FIFA’s Technical Advisory Group

The EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC), Synthetic Turf Council (STC) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see the ESTC and STC joining FIFA’s all-important Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

The FIFA TAG reports directly to the International Football Association Board (IFAB). This board determines the Laws of the Game of association football.

Currently the TAG consists of representatives of the various FIFA Preferred Producers and FIFA Approved Laboratory Test Institutes, as well as representatives from FIFA licensees and member associations.

It has been agreed that the ESTC and STC will be bestowed the Observer Status. This status is currently only reserved for World Rugby and Dr. Eric Harrison, an independent consultant with a long track record in synthetic turf.

ESTC Director General Stefan Diderich is very pleased to join the table where all important developments, research and ambitions regarding synthetic turf for football are being discussed and considered. “The STC and ESTC represent the entire value chain in synthetic turf for football. Our presence will allow us to better represent the voice and interest of all companies and organisations within the entire industry.

“It will also allow us to add value to the debate about the future of synthetic turf. The advantages synthetic turf offers proof that the game cannot do without this surface. However, we do acknowledge that synthetic turf, the maintenance thereof as well as the general perception of this type of surface can be improved. The possibility to discuss matters directly with representatives of all interest groups will, without a doubt, speed up processes and allow us to become more effective.”

Katharina Wistel, Manager FIFA Quality Programme, said: “For FIFA the cooperation with ESTC and STC is an opportunity for a continuous exchange between the industry stakeholders and the football community. It is also a pledge to engage in an open dialogue about the existing challenges, technical innovations and the performance standard for Football Turf as defined by FIFA.”

Success The Stoop something every sport can build on

As the FIH Pro League double header between England and New Zealand deserved a venue that would do justice to the intentions of the games, the synthetic turf industry took on the challenge and delivered a quality, yet portable, surface. This enabled England Hockey to move the games to a bigger and even more high-profile venue.

The FIH Pro League is the successor of the FIH Champions Trophy and Hockey World League and is set to become the FIH’s drawcard to improve the profile of hockey and increase its global fanbase. Hockey is still the worlds’ third-largest team sport, after football and cricket, but lately it has been missing out on the commercial gains from high-profile tournaments like the football Champions League or commercial cricket leagues. Clever marketing strategies and a proven fanbase in hosting cities and nations have helped the respective sports federations to grow the profile of the game and their international fanbase. FIH’s Pro League has been developed and designed to achieve a similar change but successes will only become reality when hosting cities will play their part of the game.  

Capacity at Twickenham Stoop allowed many more hockey fans to attend the games

The moment it got clear that both the men’s and women’s team could play the respective teams from New Zealand on the same day, England Hockey embarked on a quest to find a venue that would have sufficient capacity to accommodate the crowd anticipated for these games. The rivalry between both powerhouses goes back a long way and the organisers were convinced they could sell significantly more tickets than the approximately 7,000 tickets they would be able to sell from playing at their normal home Lee Valley, the former Olympic venue. Apart from the capacity the venue was also expected to deliver the comfort and atmosphere normally associated with big sports events. After having consulted the Rugby Football Union, contact was made with management of Twickenham Stoop stadium, home ground to Harlequins Rugby Club. The choice certainly got the blessing from Jamie Hindhaugh, COO of BT Sport, the media partner of England Hockey. “We are big hockey fans at BT Sport and it’s fantastic to see the game continue to go from strength to strength. We are delighted that The Stoop will host a double header on FIH Pro League final day, it’s a venue that we know well which will help create a fantastic atmosphere and great TV.”

Nothing left to chance

FIH and England Hockey couldn’t have wished for a better partner than Harlequins Rugby Club. The reason why the club is one of the oldest and most-recognised rugby club in the world, is thanks to its drive to always wanting to innovate. “Our club has a history of innovation and adventure and we take great pride in being able to offer our neighbours and supporters the chance to see something different at The Stoop,” Harlequins CEO David Ellis said while explaining their eagerness to get involved in the project. Installation of the temporary hockey pitch could start early June, providing the venue would be handed back in time and in a condition the club would be able to prepare itself for the upcoming rugby season.

Installing a synthetic turf for a temporary hockey event is nothing new. In 1998 and in 2014 stadiums in Utrecht and The Hague, both in the Netherlands, had permanent synthetic turf hockey structures installed for the Hockey World Cups. What made the intentions from England Hockey different was that, this time, the field should be designed as a temporary structure that would not damage the existing field and that could be use again in the future.  

Permavoid geocellular sub-base with ProPlay shockpad

In close partnership with England Hockey, FIH Global Partner Polytan, shockpad supplier Schmitz Foam Products, sub-base and water management experts Polypipe, natural sports turf research and development institute STRI Group, Harlequins Rugby Club, England Hockey and the FIH, set off to design and establish the field. Small scale trial works had been carried out at STRI UK already and all parties involved had analysed the efficacy of the prototype. Pro hockey players had also been invited to play on the test pitch and had given it their blessing. Once it was established that the prototype could be upscaled, a further trial was established at Bisham Abbey which replicated the crown formation at Twickenham Stoop. “This helped us to determine the required performance parameters to meet the requirements of hockey without damaging the existing pitch,” STRI senior design consultant, James Westwood explained. “This involved modification of the existing crown formation over the pitch to provide the finer surface tolerances and gradients required for the game of hockey, as well as enhancing the existing drainage which would also benefit the Harlequins in the longer term.”

Innovative system

Establishing the groundworks took a bit more time this year. “We first removed the turf, levelled the ground and enhanced the drainage of the existing field so we could provide the platform on which the temporary hockey pitch is be installed,” FIH Facilities & Programme Manager Alastair Cox. Thanks to the preparations, any future installations of the hockey field would only require installing the field itself. The plan will be that Harlequins rugby club plays rugby one weekend, then a hockey pitch is built over the turf to allow hockey games being played the following weekend, before the temporary structure is taken out again to ensure the venue will be ready to host its usual rugby event the weekend after. “Our aim is to be in and out of a stadium in six to eight days during which we will install the pitch, play the match and remove the pitch again.” 

Games were played on a Poligras Tokyo GT surface, the same surface that will be used for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Games were played on a Poligras Tokyo GT surface, the same surface that will be used for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Once groundworks were finished, a unique Permavoid geocellular sub-base was installed to create a stable, high-quality playing surface that can be quickly and cost-effectively re-created on any scale, in any location and on any existing surface. Over 24,000 interconnected 85mm deep units were installed. Its open cell structure provides a temporary attenuation volume to receive any excess water from the surface. Eliminating the risk of any surface water ponding, while allowing it to infiltrate to ground at the sub-soil’s natural rate. The sub-base was topped with a high-density, ridgid ProPlay shockpad from Schmitz Foam Products to maintain the level integrity of the finished surface before it was completed with Poligras Tokyo GT. The FIH Global Supplier has specifically developed the new surface for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The yarn is made up for 60% from renewable resources. More importantly, this surface requires two-thirds less water than the surfaces used at previous Olympics.

Delivery as planned

The whole project truly delivered as planned. The two games were played to an almost capacity crowd of 15,000 spectators, granting many more fans the opportunity to attend the games. They also enjoyed the comfort of a venue specifically built to accommodate sports enthusiasts and to quickly and comfortably provide for all their needs. There is no doubt that gate fees and revenue generated from selling food, beverages and souvenirs ended being significantly higher that what used to be during previous hockey games. Sponsors and officials also enjoyed the luxury and comfort of the existing hospitality suites while, perhaps evenly important, media and broadcasters could immediately tap in existing infrastructure to broadcast the games. The success of the project was rounded off by the fact that both the English men’s team, as well as the women’s team, beat their opponent from New Zealand. The victories were important for both teams as they hadn’t really experienced much success in previous games. It can certainly be claimed that the support of some 15,000 fans made a difference.

Over 14,000 fans witnessed how England beat New Zealand twice

How much the organisers and hockey in general have gained from the event, will become clear in the coming months. Hopefully its success will translate in more sponsors, more players and, above all; more fans. Thanks to the agreement between England Hockey and Twickenham Stoop stadium management, there will be many opportunities and sufficient capacity to cheer on their team. “England Hockey’s plans to host matches at Twickenham Stoop demonstrates the innovative and ambitious thinking our National Associations are investing in the new FIH Pro League,” FIH CEO, Thierry Weil, said when England Hockey unveiled its plans to use a different venue. Without a doubt, ambitious thinking can always count on the synthetic turf industry to deliver.


ESTC welcomes EU and UEFA statements in microplastics debate

The EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) is pleased to have noted the statements made by the European Commission (EU) and the European Football Association (UEFA) to clarify the position of synthetic turf in the current debate about microplastics.

An official statement by the EU released on 25 July, states: ‘The European Commission does not plan to ban artificial turf pitches and does not work on such a proposal.’ The statement goes on to say that: ‘The truth is: The Commission’s plastic strategy is looking at ways to reduce the amount of environmentally harmful microplastics in our environment. In this context, among other things, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is currently conducting a public consultation on the possible effects of a possible restriction on the use of microplastic granules, which is used, among other things, as filling material for artificial turf.’

The EU statement follows that of an UEFA official issued to the German Press Agency (DPA): ‘There is currently insufficient evidence of the dangers of these substances to the environment.’ The official also pointed out that ‘the existing alternatives lead to high costs and are neither feasible nor sustainable.’

ESTC Director General Stefan Diderich is happy with the public announcements made by the EU and UEFA. “The public concern and debate about the environment are understandable but the way arguments have wrongfully been linked to the synthetic turf lately, doesn’t serve any purpose. It is good to see that the European Commission is arresting this situation.”

The ESTC’s position on infill and microplastics is clear. “Infill is an essential component for third-generation synthetic turf systems. Providing it is kept within the system it is not a pollutant. There are many systems and solutions available to keep the infill within the field. All that is lacking at the moment is for owners, users and maintenance crews to actively participate in ensuring the infill remains in the field. The ESTC and its members are working hard to create such awareness.”

European Chemical Agency

While welcoming the statements from the EU and UEFA, a statement released by ECHA shows that there is still work to be done regarding the education on synthetic turf systems. “We are very disappointed to note that ECHA still relays on unvalidated data when motivating why it is still investigating infill for synthetic turf pitches. Over the past few months the ESTC, and many other organisations, have answered ECHA’s call to participate in the public consultation process regarding a ban on the intentionally use of microplastics. We have submitted extensive and substantiated information on the 5 questions ECHA asked. It appears that this information has largely been ignored as ECHA still uses data which has been proven to be incorrect.”

ESTC’s Technical Director, Alastair Cox, has reached out to ECHA and offered assistance from the ESTC to help ECHA understand how infill is managed in a synthetic turf system.  

Predicting at this point whether there is a future for granular infills in synthetic turf pitches, is premature. “The ESTC is continuously updating ECHA on new developments and trends in the industry that can help in reducing or preventing a possible microplastics problem as well as explaining why a ban on synthetic turf would be counterproductive. Our participation has been acknowledged and is appreciated. Understandingly, ECHA sets the bar very high in stimulating the industry. It’s a challenge that the ESTC and the synthetic turf industry are very eager to meet. A good example was the debate on the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon that crumb rubber was allowed to contain. After ECHA initially planned to pursue a very low limit, the industry reviewed its products and procedures to determine whether this could be achieved and proposed a maximum limit of 17mg/kg. It has now been announced that ECHA wants to introduce a limit of 20 mg/kg (0.0020 % by weight of this component) of the sum of the listed eight PAHs. We are confident that, by continuing showing our willingness to participate and assist in the debate, innovate and by continuously advocating best practices, the synthetic turf industry under the leadership of the ESTC and ECHA will once again establish benchmarks that will be acceptable to the market, the industry and the environment collectively.

ESTC DG Stefan Diderich with Eric O'Donnell - Sports Labs

Taking the lead

Scotland is tackling microplastics pollution head-on and has invited the ESTC to join them in finding solutions to deal with this issue. They couldn’t have wished for a better partner.

Pollution from microplastics affects everybody and everything but has a complicated nature that needs to be treated delicately in order to be solved correctly. According to Scientists at Oxford University, close to 5 billion microplastic particles pollute the world’s oceans’ surface making coastal countries in particular vulnerable to pollution. With a coastline measuring 11,000 kilometres in length, Scotland has been on the receiving end of (plastic) waste transported in currents and drifts for decades. A recent clean-up for research purposes at 16 coastal spots saw over 20,000 pieces of plastic being retrieved, an incredible number considering the mere 48m2 that was cleaned. However, sewage related debris like wet wipes, cotton or bud stems that are found in the Scottish ecosystem all come from people flushing plastic down the toilet. It made the Scottish government realise that the issued needed to be addressed urgently, hence its decision to assemble a forum in late June to help them to draft a framework for implementing adequate measures.

ESTC’s Director General, Stefan Diderich represented the synthetic turf industry from the European, Middle Eastern and African region. ‘Participating in such a debate is the best way to prevent the whole microplastics issue becoming of Loch Ness Monster-sized proportion,’ he says while referring to a monster that has never really been identified nor measured. ‘Plastics and microplastics without any real purpose are a major concern. However, the rubber or plastic infill used in synthetic turf fields form an integral part of the synthetic turf system. They are vital to ensuring a lasting, safe and quality surface for sports and leisure activities. As long as these materials remain within the system they cannot be considered a concern in terms of microplastics pollution. The issue that needs to be dealt with is ensuring that those granules don’t leave the field and enter the environment.’

Numerous solutions

There are numerous solutions to ensuring that the rubber or plastic remains in the field. ‘Buyers of synthetic turf fields have options like kick-boards or other barriers that will prevent the granules from leaving the field while options like brushes, walk-off mats and extended paving around the field can also prevent the granules from going AWOL. Many of these solutions have already proven to be very effective. All it takes is for buyers of a synthetic turf field to accept that these solutions require an increased budget,’ Diderich continues. He points out that the ESTC is actively assisting the European Technical Committee on sports surfaces in drafting a document to create awareness amongst field designers, venue owners, installation companies and those maintaining long pile synthetic turf sports fields about measure to keep the infill inside the field. Budget for these measures doesn’t necessarily have to be excessive. Proper planning and oversight can help to keep it limited. ‘Nowadays, Dutch municipalities expect installing companies to first explain how they will remove and recycle the synthetic turf field as part of the tender process for an installation project. This to ensure that, in the process, no infill will be able to get out of the system. For the city of Amsterdam it has become the norm to wrap the old field in biodegradable plastic before it is loaded onto trucks that remove the old field off-site before they ship it to the recycling company.’ Utrecht municipality even encourages installing companies to recycle old synthetic turf carpets to produce kickboards that can be used to keep infill inside newly installed fields.

One of the partners the ESTC closely works together with in sharing its knowledge is the British Trade Association, the Sports and Play Construction Association (SAPCA). ‘We promote collaboration and innovation to help ensure successful projects for sports and leisure use,’ says SAPCA Project Manager Colin Corline. The organisation’s goal in ‘Building an Active Nation’ is to ensure that every project meets the customer’s expectations, and is designed, built and maintained to last, whilst delivering excellent value for money. SAPCA and the ESTC have joined hands to assist the Scottish government in an ocean pollution initiative. ‘With the debate in Scotland directly affecting our members it is important for us to explain what can be done to tackle the issue locally and to explain to our members what it is the Scottish government intends to do.’

Contributing to a greater cause

The ESTC recently approved the first set of tools and documentation regarding the microplastics issue and how the industry can help to manage it, for distribution amongst its members. The information was also shared with Fidra, a Scottish environmental charity organisation. With feedback provided by ESTC members, we finalised our best practice guidelines outlining simple ways to reduce your microplastic footprint, with different versions tailored for designers and procurement, owners and maintenance staff, and users,’ says Fidra’s Madeleine Berg. She has been delighted by the proactive and open discussions she already has had with the synthetic turf industry through the ESTC. ‘Since the start of the project of addressing microplastics issues within the synthetic turf industry, we have been impressed by the willingness shown by organisations and companies to take the lead in tackling the problem, particularly within the ESTC network. Several companies took the time to review our draft guidelines, which helped to make suggestions more robust. We encourage ESTC to continue leading the way on this issue, helping to ensure best practice is put in place across new and existing pitches to reduce microplastic loss. This way we can increase access to safe play and training areas while minimising impact on the environment.’

Educating the world, informing the industry

Berg points out that Fidra is always looking for more input and feedback on their documentation. She mentions pitch architects and designers specifically as an industry group that is still ‘missing’. These are the same professionals and industries Stefan Diderich is trying to convince to join the ESTC. ‘These professionals are a vital link between buyers of synthetic turf and the synthetic turf industry yet they miss out on valid information,’ he says. ‘It is very unfortunate that is has largely gone unnoticed that the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) uses incorrect information for its proposed ban on intentionally added plastics in synthetic turf systems. This is something the ESTC is passionately trying to rectify and it requires all stakeholders to educate and remind buyers of synthetic turf fields about their role to keep the possibility of microplastics pollution at a minimum.’ According to ECHA synthetic turf fields tend to lose a large amount of infill every year. ‘I beg to differ as the latest and well-engineered third generation synthetic turf systems require much less infill to perform compared to the fields that were introduced at the turn of the century. It is incorrect to believe that if one system design has an issue, this applies to all the synthetic turf fields that are out there. As the latest synthetic turf innovations use performance infill on a performance layer, these systems require 60% less infill. The infill for these systems also has a lesser tendency to compact. That means that possible contribution to the microplastics issue by modern synthetic turf systems is very limited, if it exists at all.’

Ahead of other industries

The ESTC’s key message to the Scottish government was to invest in quality synthetic turf systems and improve the maintenance of these fields. Earlier this year Cameron Watt, the Facilities Manager at the Scottish FA, pointed out that the 350 synthetic turf fields in the country enable 9.7 hours of healthy, physical activity. Banning these fields indiscriminately will have massive implications for Scottish society.

The drafting of a report is now handled by a consultancy company. Testing institute Sports Labs is on hand to provide assistance. ‘It has become evident that the synthetic turf industry is already ahead of the guidance documents currently used to determine the position of each industry,’ Eric O’Donnell of Sports Labs claims. It’s an encouraging message that also requires to be managed correctly. ‘While most companies in Europe and North America have started to accept the debate about possible microplastic pollution from synthetic turf systems in their quest to develop new or better systems, large parts of places like Africa have never been pushed to look beyond the cheapest price when investing in a synthetic turf system. It is essential to invest in educating markets like this if one wants to address the issue of microplastics from synthetic turf systems.’ Madeleine Berg proposes that all parts of the synthetic turf community have a role to play. ‘The government has a role in helping to ensure that guidelines for minimising loss are implemented in all new builds, and that retrofitting fields happens during refurbishments of old fields. Designers can include specifications to reduce microplastic loss, while customers can demand that these specifications are included. But ultimately the industry can lead the way in preventing this issue. Whether that is ensuring that best practice measures are incorporated into design specifications, encouraging innovation in non-infill or organic infill-based systems, or providing training and knowledge-sharing, the industry can provide the expertise that is needed as awareness increases across the rest of the community.’

The ESTC is the industry association for the synthetic turf industry and has the vision to serve as the forum to promote, develop, grow and advocate for the synthetic turf industry. It is the voice of the industry and it aims to fulfil its role by means of close collaboration with all parties involved, be they members, end-users, sports governing bodies or legislators. ‘Assisting the Scottish government in closing the tap on microplastic pollution comes naturally as it serves the interests of the users and buyers as well as the industry,’ says Stefan Diderich. ‘There is an enormous amount of knowledge and experience available within the ESTC and we are certainly keen to assist where possible and to share that freely.’



ESTC keeps drive for shockpad norm active

The ESTC is pleased to hear that the European Standards Committee (CEN) will continue to develop a European standard for shockpads despite a recent vote to officially place the drafting of the  European standard on the committee’s work programme, failing to get enough votes from the various European nations that are members of CEN.

‘Although there was a majority of votes to formally adopt the work item some of the larger countries in Europe didn’t vote in favour of the plan, meaning the weighted majority of the countries that voted in favour wasn’t enough to tip the balance,’ says ESTC Director General, Stefan Diderich. The disappointing result means that countries are still allowed to continue drafting and developing their own national standards on this topic. ‘We consider that a waste of resources as many of the shockpad producers trading in Europe have already adopted the ESTC Performance Guide for Shockpads as a means to determine the quality of a shockpad,’ says Frenk Stoop, the chairman of the ESTC Shock pad Working. The document is available on the ESTC website and has provided the basis for a European standard.

North America

While the European Standards Committee failed to formalise their work on shockpads, authorities in North-America have embraced the concept. ‘With the help of the Synthetic Turf Council (STC) in North America, the document also received input and the blessing from the North-American synthetic turf industry. It is expected that a shockpad standard for North-America will be adopted this fall,’ the Technical Director of the ESTC, Alastair Cox, points out. Cox is confident  that the European Standards Committee, ultimately, will follow suit. ‘They have agreed to reconsider the proposal for placing the drafting of a shockpad standard on its works programme. Before they can do so, they will first have to review all objections that have been submitted,’ he explains. Many of these rejections had been considered in the previous process but have now been resubmitted. ‘This will be a time-consuming process we have to accept before we can move on and fully develop the standard.’ Cox estimates that it could take another couple of years before a European standard would become reality.

EMEA region

While the ESTC has been disappointed by the voting of the European Standards Committee, it certainly hasn’t lost its fighting spirit. ‘European and North American standards form the blueprint for regulation in many other countries and particularly in those that don’t have the knowledge or resources to draft their own independently. This small step towards better and safer sports surfaces in Europe and North America is the equivalent of a giant leap in countries where sports and the quality of sports infrastructure are considered less important than many other pertaining issues,’ says Stefan Diderich, the ESTC Director General. As the ESTC represents the synthetic turf industry from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, there are enough reasons to continue pushing CEN to develop such a standard.