More than five years since European authorities used data from infill dispersion on Norwegian synthetic turf fields to clamp down on microplastic pollution from synthetic turf, over half of the fields in Norway still do not comply with basic regulations to prevent the spread of microplastics.
A recent survey by the Norwegian environmental authorities has come to this shocking conclusion.
Poor maintenance practices observed in Norway, as well as analysis of the impact of wind affecting third-generation synthetic turf fields, were the reason why European authorities initially claimed that third-generation synthetic turf fields each shed up to 5,000-6,000 kg of polymeric infill per year.
This is why European authorities have come down hard on synthetic turf in particular.
The industry has always disputed the claim, and had infill dispersion studied by an independent environmental consultancy firm from Denmark. These consultants concluded that, by using infill migration mitigating measures, infill dispersion could be reduced by over 98% to approximately 50 kg per field per annum. These mitigating measures have now been adopted by FIFA and World Rugby and have become the norm in many countries. Except for Norway, it appears.
Still not the norm
Norwegian authorities already have legislation for synthetic turf fields in place. The Pollution Control Regulation 23A regulates the design and operation of synthetic turf fields with polymeric infill.
At present, Norway has approximately 2,000 of these fields.
Recently, the Norwegian Environmental Agency audited 88 fields: 76 owned by communities or municipalities and 12 owned by clubs.
Half of them did not have any mitigating measures in place. 70% of the audited owners had not done enough to create awareness amongst players and officials about microplastic pollution from third-generation synthetic turf fields and what they could do to prevent this.
“It is very important that owners ensure that measures are put in place to collect rubber granules to avoid them appearing outside the field,” says Department Director Marit Kjeldby.
In a survey in 2021, the agency concluded that Norway experiences 19,000 tonnes of microplastic pollution per annum. According to the investigators, 6,000 tonnes was polymeric infill from third-generation synthetic turf fields.
“The municipalities and the sports facilities must correct what was uncovered during this audit. This applies in particular to the requirement to have physical barriers around fields. State administrators will see to it that this is done,” Kjeldby warned.
On 14 December the European Commission will vote on a proposal to ban the sale of polymeric infill from 2029 to prevent microplastic pollution from third generation synthetic turf fields in the future.