ESTC helping set the environmental agenda :

Developing Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules for synthetic turf surfaces

Increasingly consumers and markets are becoming more environmentally aware, and the desire to incorporate sustainability assessments into the selection process when buying a product is becoming ever more common.  This is especially the case within the construction industry and also when public funding is involved.  As facilities with synthetic turf surfaces often fall into both of these categories, this is an increasingly significant consideration for ESTC members.

Within the European Union, legislation to ensure Europe is climate neutral by 2050 and has made a 50% improvement by 2030 is leading member states to now reflect about these objectives in their national policies. To help achieve these goals the European Commission has published its Circular Economy Action Plan and their Green Deal strategy.  These are designed and will increasingly require all industry sectors to adopt an eco-design and sustainable manufacturing philosophy.

PEF CR – a standardised industry approach towards sustainability

Today companies are starting to promote their green credentials, often by undertaking life cycle assessments of their products and their production. But with no standardised approach to how this can be done data is often incompatible meaning direct comparisons between product cannot be made and allowing those that wish to manipulate data to promote their green messaging.

The European Commission wish to bring clarity to the market and want to avoid a multiplication of labels/environmental schemes being developed, some of which could restrict the sale of products throughout the single market. They have therefore adopted the life cycle assessments technique based on Product Environmental Footprints (PEF) as their preferred form.  To ensure PEFs achieves the European Commission’s objectives they need to be undertaken in a standardised way by all companies operating in an industry sector; defining the way you should undertake a PEF study is achieved by setting Category Rules (CR).

The synthetic turf industry is increasingly facing sustainable challenges that require collective action on a large scale to ensure its products are as environmentally compatible as possible.  ESTC has recognized that developing a PEFCR for synthetic turf products is an opportunity for the industry to further demonstrate how it is responding to these challenges.

Applying and being selected by the European Commission to develop a PEFCR within their Environmental Footprint Transition Phase Two Pilot Projects means the European synthetic turf industry is now ahead of future legislation, and most importantly working within the framework of the EU Transition Phase, we can set the rules for our industry instead of having them imposed by others in the future.

What will the PEFCR for synthetic turf cover?

As required by the EU Transition Phase rules ESTC has appointed a Technical Secretariat to coordinate the development of our PEFCR.  Again, as required by the rules this comprises manufacturers accounting for more than 50% of the European manufacturing capacity, a SME industry member and an NGO.

Our members are:

  • FieldTurf Tarkett
  • Polytan/Polytex
  • Re-Match
  • Sport and Leisure Group
  • TenCate Grass
  • UEFA

The process

We have appointed Pre-Sustainability BV – a leading European PEF consultancy to lead the project for us.

The Technical Secretariat has decided that our PEFCR will have sub-categories for:

  • synthetic turf surfaces for sports use
  • synthetic turf surfaces for landscaping and recreational us

For each sub-category we will establish a PEF for a virtual representative product. This will act as the benchmark reference against which all real products are then compared; some will environmentally better than the representative product, some will be worse.  The representative product is based on the average EU sales-weighted characteristics of existing technologies.  For each sub-category the PEF will look at the environmental impact of each stage of the products life, from production of raw materials (e.g. the polyethylene granules from which the yarn masterbatch is made), through carpet production, shockpad production, infill production, etc, transportation to site, installation, maintenance and finally end of life disposal.  Parameters such as waste generated during production, packaging, the merits (or not) of using recycled materials, CO2 emissions during manufacturing, transportation and maintenance, potential microplastic releases will all be considered.

For each and every stage of a synthetic turf’s life datasets defining the product’s PEF values will have to be established.  So far, the Technical Secretariate has identified the need for over 200 different data values.  One big advantage of being part of the EC pilot projects is that many of these datasets will be provided to the project free of charge (for a time limited period) by the European Commission. As, however, some values will be unique to our industry or even to a specific company, these datasets will have to be determine individually by the manufacturer of the product, or their supplier.

Although the primary focus of the PEFCR will be the synthetic turf surface, including any  shockpad and infill, an optional capability to also consider the PEF impact of the base construction for the field, court or area will also be included, allowing those that want to fully assess the environmental impact of one design solution against another.

Timeline

Work commenced on developing our PEFCR in early 2020 and the European Commission requires the project to be completed by the end of 2022. The projected timeline for the work stages is:

As the project progresses ESTC will provide updates to this information and at the key stages seek the support, feedback and engagement of its members.  If in the meantime further information is required members can speak with Alastair Cox, ESTC Technical Director.