• Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Andalusia ban fools the uninformed


The Andalusian Regional Government in Spain has gazetted that it will no longer subsidise synthetic turf fields that use microplastics as an infill. However, no word is mentioned about the polymeric infills larger than 5 mm in diameter that are produced in the province, a project that is subsidised by the European Union.

According to the Official Gazette of the Andalusian Regional Government (BOJA) of 4 April, the Directorate General of Events and Sports Facilities states that, “In the case of the proposed installation or replacement of synthetic turf, the granular infill material used may not be microplastics,” when the owner is asking for a subsidy from the regional government.

Small print makes the difference

In September last year, the European Commission ruled that, in the interest of curbing environmental pollution, the sale of polymeric infills with a diameter of smaller than 5 mm should come to an end, the sooner the better. To avoid the decision causing problems for field owners, investors and the synthetic turf industry, a grace period of 8 years was adopted.

Also last year, researchers at the University of Barcelona concluded that 15% of the microplastic pollution found in water can be attributed to yarn wear.

Therefore, the decision by the Andalusian Regional Government to immediately ban the use of microplastics sounds laudable.

However, it is the emphasis on “microplastic” that makes the difference here.

Elsewhere in the province, GWC from Murcia has developed Ecolastene. The particles of this polymeric infill all measure more than 5 mm. Technically, this means this infill is not viewed as a microplastic.

The company claims that, due to their shape, the infill is less likely to migrate (out of the field).

LIFET4C Project

Together with Polytan and Hauraton, a company best known for its draining solutions that surround athletic tracks or synthetic turf sports surfaces, GWC formed a consortium that successfully applied for a European incentive.

The LIFET4C Project is funded by the European Union to offer a sustainable alternative to polymeric infills that have been determined as being microplastics.

According to the website of the European Commission, the overall objective of LIFET4C is the design and manufacture of a new synthetic turf pitch to achieve high-performance technical characteristics while being safe and sustainable, including sustainable end-of-life management. This will involve the optimisation of the design and manufacture of the different components from technology readiness level (TRL) 7 scaled up to TRL9, and integration into a competitive turf pitch, proven in an operational environment.

The expected results are:

  • A reduction of 40.96% of CO2 emissions per pitch produced compared to conventional pitches, equivalent to a reduction of 50,340.39 tonnes of CO2 emissions over a 5-year period.
  • An increase in the resource efficiency of a synthetic turf pitch by 100%, i.e., an increase in the resource efficiency of 28,500 tonnes of materials in a 5-year period after the end of the project.
  • A 100% reduction in the use of environmentally hazardous substances in pitches, equivalent to a reduction in the use of 984,390 kg of PBT plastic and very persistent and very bio-accumulative (vPvB) substances used in infill material over a 5-year period.
  • A reduction of plastics and micro plastics leaking into the surrounding environment of 97.73% and 100% respectively.
  • The technical and economic demonstration of six new business cases generating industrial benefits for project partners of €31,383,320 in a 5-year period and leveraging investment of €3,797,476.
  • The direct creation of 96 jobs by project partners in a 5-year period.
  • The increased social acceptability of sustainable solutions.

Slap in the face

It goes without saying that accepting polymeric infills with particles larger than 5 mm as an alternative because they appear to migrate less (quickly) is a slap in the face for anybody making an effort to prevent or reduce environmental pollution.

If migration speed had been the big issue for the European Commission, it could have accepted the documented evidence that risk management measures like kickboards and grids that capture any infill stuck under shoes can reduce environmental pollution by as much as 98%.

It could have also been more lenient towards biodegradable and biobased products, which have been given an unreasonable timeframe within which they’ll have to dissolve in soil or in water, rendering these alternative source materials as unsuitable for use in third-generation synthetic turf surfaces.

Guy Oldenkotte

Guy Oldenkotte is senior editor of sportsfields.info and has been covering the outdoor sportssurfaces market and industry since 2003

Leave a Reply