Sportsfields.info has reliably learnt that infills made of 100% biodegradable polymers are awaiting the same fate as traditional polymeric infills, if the European Commission (EC) has its way. Unless the EC accepts that the biodegradation regime for these products should be similar to those it applies to biodegradable polymers for the agriculture and horticulture markets, the sale of biodegradable polymeric infills will be banned in six years’ time too.
From what we have been told, the European Commission decided on 23 September to go full steam ahead with its intention to ban the sale of intentionally added microplastics within six years.
Intentionally added microplastics are products made of a polymer and where ≥ 1% w/w of particles have dimensions between 1nm ≤ x ≤ 5mm.
This potentially also includes products made of biodegradable polymers and that are used in synthetic turf systems as Sportsfields.info reported two years ago already. The EC is planning to pursue such strict degradation expectations that they are virtually impossible to meet.
Synthetic turf products made of biodegradable polymers are new to the market but are viewed by many as a potential solution to environmental pollution.
Dissolve by 90% or else!
The Achilles heel for biodegradable infills is that they have been designed to also withstand the impact of moisture. These products generally start dissolving when they come into contact with microorganisms that can mainly be found in soil or in a biodigester.
The European Commission is now about to rule that biodegradable polymers should be dissolved by 90% within six months after ending up in water or within 24 months when placed in soil. The EC points out that protecting marine life has always been a key driver for them to introduce the ban. Managing the degradation in water will be difficult, given the wet conditions most synthetic turf fields experience and the expectations that the infill will last for at least eight years.
The only product category they are planning to exclude are biopolymers used for products in the agricultural and horticultural markets. Here, the degradation criteria will be related to the functional period of the product. Other products can apply for a similar approach, providing they can prove that they will meet the degradation requirements eventually. Suppliers of biodegradable products for synthetic turf could consider this route. However, the EC is considering adopting test methods to monitor this option, that do not consider the functionality of biodegradable polymeric infill.