Infill dispersion can be managed

A combination of appropriate field design, good maintenance routines and improved player’ hygiene can limit infill dispersion to only 2g/m2, says Swedish consultancy firm Ecoloop.

Earlier this year, ESTC commissioned Ecoloop to undertake a study to describe typical use of synthetic turf fields in the EU and to quantify the extent of infill transport due to common activities on third-generation synthetic turf fields.

The Swedish consultants have studied all the literature available on these topics. They have identified three zones:

  • The field of play where the infill is meant to be
  • A control zone to where the infill can migrate and accumulate. This zone is designed with this in mind, hence the infill cannot move out of the area
  • An uncontrolled zone, to where infill should not migrate.

They conclude that infill migration into uncontrolled zones on fields in common use in the EU can be controlled by up to 97%. If adopted, use of mitigating measures and good practices could help limit the uncontrolled migration of infill to about 2 g/m2. This is below the 7g/m2 proposed by ECHA’s Socio-Economic Analysis Committee (SEAC).

Mitigating measures

Examples of mitigating measures are barriers, decontamination grates, boot cleaning brushes and filters. These will help maintain the infill within the boundaries of the containment zone of the field. Earlier this year, the European Standards Committee released CEN TR 17519 Surfaces for sports areas – Synthetic turf sports facilities Guidance on how to Minimize Infill Dispersion into the Environment, which documents these and other mitigating solutions. These solutions are endorsed by the various sports governing bodies, with FIFA even incorporating these in their latest ‘Handbook of test methods.

In addition, adoption good practices by maintenance crews as well as players and officials will result in capturing infill before it leaves the perimeter. With these stakeholders handling and storing maintenance equipment correctly, as well as use of boot cleaning stations and decontamination grades, the dispersion of infill could be further controlled.

The Ecoloop report shows that if all parties using synthetic turf fields with polymeric infills act responsibly and implement the recommendations of the CEN technical report, infill migration can be controlled. Therefore, banning the sale or use of polymeric infill shouldn’t be necessary.

ESTC is calling on ECHA to recommend infill for 3G synthetic turf to be granted derogation from the proposed restrictions on intentionally added microplastics, on the basis that the recommendations of the CEN technical report become mandatory for all new and existing fields.

You can download the full report here.

ECHA publishes SEAC draft opinion

ECHA has opened the window for a public consultation on the SEAC Draft Opinion on the Microplastics REACH restriction. This is the final opportunity to comment on what is proposed. Together with the SEAC draft opinion, ECHA also published the final opinion by the Risk Assessment Committee (RAC). As previously advised, RAC is recommending a ban on the sale of polymeric infills, to be implemented after a six year transitional period.

With SEAC currently not expressing a firm opinion on whether a ban or derogation based on risk management methods (containment) is most appropriate, ESTC is hopeful that SEAC can still be convinced to either maintain this position or opt for derogation.

We need your input!
If you can provide further reasons why a ban should not be introduced, or provide evidence that containment will achieve the objectives of the restriction, especially beyond what has already been said, it will help us promote our argument.

Send your feedback to by 14 August latest to allow ESTC’s Technical Director Alastair Cox to formulate an industry response.

Next step
The final opinions by RAC and SEAC will be used by the European Commission in their discussions directly with the Member States. ESTC has produced this to flyer explain you the process.

ESTC will continue to lobby for derogation based on risk management methods (containment). We are speaking directly with member states on this matter and we have commissioned a report from Swedish environmental consultants that have expertise in this area.

With the CEN Technical Report on Methods of Minimizing Infill Migration from Synthetic Turf Fields to be published on 22nd July, the industry will soon have all the tools to promote this preferred option. All that is left is to convince SEAC and the European Commission that polymeric infill dispersion can be controlled this way.

ECHA opinion delayed by 3 months

The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) has decided to take an extra three months to finalize its opinion on the proposed restriction on intentionally added microplastics. The consolidated opinion of ECHA’s Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) is now expected in June this year.

The standard 12 months reserved for the committees’ opinion formation has been extended due to the high number of comments received through the public consultation. ECHA also acknowledges the complexity of the issues to be evaluated.

The public consultation on the proposal to restrict the use of intentionally added microplastic particles closed on 20 September 2019. By that time ECHA had received 477 individual comments.

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.”

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.