ECHA calls for total ban on plastic infill

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published a proposal for a restriction on the use of micro plastics. If adopted, this would see all forms of rubber and plastic infills banned from use in synthetic turf systems.

ECHA motivates its plan by pointing out that very small particles of plastic material (between 1 mm and 5 mm) are harmful to the environment. If ECHA has its way, all synthetic turf systems buyers can choose from in the future will either be non-infill systems or systems that use natural infills.

The move by ECHA raises eyebrows as FIFA acknowledged earlier this year that non-infill systems for football fail to meet the requirements the football governing body has set, hence these systems have to be re-tested according to a new standard.
In the draft restriction ECHA acknowledges that there may be a need to exclude infill if a convincing social economic argument is made. It is primarily up to industry to make this case, the organisation states. The deadline for doing so will be 20 September latest but the ESTC strives to submit information by 20 May early to take full advantage of the upcoming public consultation period.

It appears that the fact that the upcoming period will be the most intense for affected companies due to the summer holidays as well as the small window in which synthetic turf fields will have to be installed, does not deter ECHA to push ahead.

ECHA’s proposal has taken both the STC as well as the ESTC by surprise, particularly following the recent announcement that ECHA considers raising the bar on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in SBR infill from 17 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg. The amount currently contained in SBR infill became a topic of debate following fears of PAH’s possibly posing a health threat.

Suppliers of SBR have long claimed that 17 mg/kg does not pose danger and that they should be able to meet that requirement. The anticipated advice by the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) of ECHA hinted that there would still be a future for SBR in synthetic turf. However, the latest move seems to close the door firmly, not just for SBR but for any other infill material that is made of plastic.

Being the representative for the European synthetic turf industry, the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) has taken it upon itself to take the lead in convincing ECHA why infill for sports flooring should be excluded from the list with affected products. The ESTC encourages companies and individuals to send their motivation to:

All information will be collected, reviewed and discussed before the ESTC will be able to submit an all-conclusive motivation that should make ECHA reconsidering its plan.