Micro plastics debates warms up in Germany

Cork infill

The new synthetic turf pitch for FC Schalding l.d.D in Passau, Germany, will now be filled in with cork. The club had initially opted for a field with crumb rubber but fear for micro plastic pollution forced the municipality to make additional investments available to fund a natural infill at the very last minute.
Currently there five synthetic turf pitches in Passau, all of them filled in with crumb rubber.
Use of crumb rubber (SBR) in synthetic turf has recently become an issue. The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) is planning to propose a ban on SBR or any other rubber or plastic infill for synthetic turf fields in an attempt to arrest pollution by micro plastics. To substantiate their claims, ECHA fell back on studies conducted in Scandinavia.
The Fraunhofer Institute in Germany adopted the claims made in the Scandinavian studies. Subsequently they calculated that synthetic turf fields in Germany are the third largest contributors to micro plastics pollution in the country. According to their calculations the approximately 3,000 synthetic turf football fields in Germany shed 11,000 tonnes of infill per annum collectively. It is a claim that is vehimenantly denied by Frank Dittrich of Sport Group Holding, the company that owns Polytan, the leading installing company in Germany.
Since 1993, these fields are being built on an elastic layer and, as such, require less rubber granulate to provide the shock absorption required,” he says.  He estimates that by using a e-layer, a field requires half of the infill used in fields that are being built without e-layer or shockpad. “We feel like the guy in the first row who gets in trouble for the guy behind who threw the paper plane.” 
Studies in the Netherlands and Denmark seem to substantiate Dittrich’ claim. “Apparently researchers in Scandinavia asked synthetic turf maintenance companies how much infill they add to a field annually. It turned out that their answers ranged from a few hundred kg to 2,2 tonnes which made the researchers decide to adopt the worstcase scenario for their claim. They reasoned that if 2,2 tonnes would be added to a field, this would mean that 2,2 tonnes had left the field. However, they failed to acknowledge that the bulk  of that 2,2 tonnes, in fact, had compacted,” said Carsten Sigvert of granulate supplier Genan during a meeting at the EMEA Synthetic Turf Organisation in April.
Regardless the outcome of the debate, FC Schalding l.d.D. has decided to switch to cork. This decision will cost the municipality 34,800 euros more.

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