The ESTC’s response to the ECHA’s plans to ban the use of micro plastics is only one step toward avoiding the serious implications that currently threatens the European synthetic turf industry. Adopting and respecting the basics in terms of ‘good house-keeping’ can certainly make a difference.
The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) considers rubber and plastic infill to be one of many contributors to micro plastic pollution. The correctness of the statement doesn’t matter: according to popular belief each plastic or rubber particle that ends up in a place where it isn’t supposed to be is classified as pollution.
Micro plastic pollution is a serious issue that affects every single person globally. It also requires the input of many to prevent this from happening.
With the adoption of the 1987 Brundlandt Report by the UN each industry, company and person is expected to adopt ‘good practices’ and embrace ‘sustainability’. The expectation is not an appeal on common sense or one’s feelings but has become a legal norm and reality. To date the Brundlandt Commission’s definition of sustainability as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ has become the cornerstone of (Occupational) Health and Safety or Environmental Legislation in virtually every country. Failure to adhere to these legislations is punishable by fines, imprisonment or forced company closure. There is no distinction between offenders, supervisors or employers as the legal chain of command (and responsibility) is well-defined in the basics regarding Occupational Health and Safety in each nation.
Micro plastic pollution can be prevented or reduced to the absolute minimum by all stakeholders involved in the purchase, installation, use, maintenance and removal of a 3G synthetic turf field. In this article we have broken it down to every group and list the basics.
- Have you thoroughly investigated all options before you settled for a 3G system with rubber or plastic infill?
- Have you made sure that there is an adequate budget for the investment, maintenance and removal of the field and have all financial implications for every step been carefully considered?
- Does your planning allow installing companies to adhere to legislation, work around poor weather conditions and deliver a quality 3G pitch within the set time-frame?
- Have you made provision for investments in filter systems, kick-boards, walk-on mats, storage area for snow that is removed from a 3G pitch, walk-off mats or any other system that can reduce or mitigate any possible impact of rubber or plastic infill that has left the field?
- Have you asked for, received and verified everything you need to ensure you are dealing with legitimate companies that have experience in installing the pitch?
- Do you know all the ins and outs of legislation that needs to be respected?
- Have you drafted a protocol for maintenance crews and users regarding handling plastic or rubber infill that is found outside the pitch?
- Do you share performance or maintenance data regarding the field with the relevant sports association and owners of a similar pitch?
- Have you taken adequate measures to mitigate any possible pollution while filling in a 3G pitch?
- Have you put protective sheeting on the floor in the storage area where you will keep the big bag before you start filling the field in?
- Have you made sure that no unauthorised people have access to this area and that this area is shielded from the wind?
- Do you observe the weather and wind conditions while filling in?
- Do you ensure that your staff that handled infill and/or accessed the field after it was filled in and the equipment they used, are sanitised following installation? Did this cleaning take place in an enclosed and managed environment?
- Do you clean up the entire site before your leave?
- Do you dispose of any excess rubber or plastic infill in an adequate and acceptable manner?
- Is your presence on a 3G field justified? Infill doesn’t distinguish between players, officials or fans walking over a 3G field.
- Do you understand the role of infill in a 3G pitch and the dos and donts in terms of handling rubber or plastic infill?
- Do you sufficiently dust off your clothing and equipment before you leave a 3G field to ensure that any plastic or rubber infill sticking to your shoes or clothing remains on the field?
- Do you access and leave the field via the official entrance and exit, thereby walking over a walk-off mat or grid that is installed to collect any infill that might stick to your socks or shoes?
- Do you wash your shoes at the basins specifically installed at the club for washing dirty shoes?
- Do you collect and dispose of any rubber or plastic infill you find elsewhere, correctly and in accordance with local or national waste management legislation?
- Are you adhering to the maintenance instructions you received from the installing company upon completion of the 3G pitch?
- Do you consider the weather and wind conditions when maintaining a field?
- Do you make sure the tyre pressure of your tractors and equipment is in accordance with what has been stipulated by the supplying company?
- Do you familiarise yourself enough about new developments, conclusions or experiences in terms of maintaining a 3G field?
- Do you see to it that, when using automated leaf blowers, you work from ‘the outside – in’?
- Do you make sure you clean your clothes and equipment before you leave the pitch to ensure all infill remains inside the perimeter?
- Is inspecting the immediate vicinity of the pitch part of your maintenance regime?
- Do you have a protocol for handling and adding rubber or plastic infill to a 3G pitch?
- Do you obtain all necessary permits and time-frames for removing, handling, storing and transporting a removed 3G pitch?
- Do you wet the field sufficiently prior to removal, to avoid wind blowing infill out of the field when lifting the carpet?
- Do you remove the infill as best as you can before you transfer the old carpet to the holding area?
- Do you wrap the carpet with infill immediately in plastic before removing it from the field?
- Do you adequately protect the holding area to prevent unauthorised individuals or the wind being able to access the infill?
- Do you put sheeting on the floor in order to collect plastic or rubber infill that falls out of the bags or carpets?
- Is the truck that is transporting the infill, regardless of whether it is in bags or still in the rolled-up carpet, fitted with adequate measures to prevent leaking infill during transport?
- Do you observe local or national protocols and / or legislation to prevent contamination or pollution (from micro plastics)?
- Do you see to it that the site is handed over clean to the owners of the pitch?
- Do you receive and hand over all documentation required to absolve you from any dispute?
By no means should rubber or plastic infill be considered dangerous or toxic. However, it takes the ill-informed very little to draw the wrong conclusion and create a toxic situation. Adhere to and respect the basics in terms of good governance and good practice. It is an easy thing to do, and can certainly go a long way!