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.