The new synthetic turf pitches at Bergavik sports ground in Kalmar, Sweden, have been fitted and are managed according to the Swedish Football Association’s recommendations for the safe layout of synthetic turf pitches. The field is the subject of a research study in which microplastics are systematically and objectively measured to verify those measurements which indicate very small amounts of microplastics in stormwater during safe management.
The project has brought the Swedish Football Association, Ragn-Sells Tyre Recycling, consultants Ecoloop as well as Luleå University of Technology and Örebro University and Kalmar municipality together.
“Kalmar is a football municipality with elite teams for both women and men. At the same time, we are a municipality which cares about the environment – and above all water – and aims to become Sweden’s best water municipality. We care about the Baltic and our watercourses, and so releasing microplastics does not work. When we were to build the new Bergavik sports ground, we felt we needed to do something to minimise any releases from the synthetic turf pitch,” says Sara Gripstrand, administrator with Kalmar municipality.
Ragn-Sells Tyre Recycling recovers scrap tyres which, among other things, become rubber granulate for all-weather pitches. With the recommendations of the Swedish Football Association and the European Chemicals Agency as a basis, advice has been developed for safe use.
“We want to contribute to the safe use of our material. In Kalmar municipality we have found a partner which wishes to build according to the instructions we and the Swedish Football Association have. We will carry out various measurements intended to show that if a pitch is built and managed in the right way, the dissemination of microplastics and other chemical substances in water is minimal,” says Sara Stiernström, business developer at Ragn-Sells Tyre Recycling.
Advanced water and purification system
The new synthetic turf field at Bergavik sports ground has been established as a closed system. A bentonite underneath the synthetic turf carpet should prevent microplastics from being washed away in through the subbase.
“We have taken all the steps we can in the design to minimise releases and are doing everything possible to ensure that as little granulate as possible gets out into the natural environment. What we think will make a big difference is that we made the pitch extra wide to facilitate snow removal. That means that we can put the snow on the pitch so that the granulate never leaves the artificial turf surface,” says Sara Gripstrand.
The field is surrounded by an advanced water and purification system. Consultancy firm Ecoloop has been appointed to research how microplastics flow out the field.
“This has been conducted as a research project in which we developed different ways of measuring the spread of microplastics where we identify the number and quantity. Most figures available on the spread of microplastics from synthetic turf pitches are assumptions or single measurements which have then been extrapolated. In this project, we measure the spread via all possible distribution paths to map how the spread can really look. It differs greatly in scientific terms from assumptions, with qualified measurements being carried out over time, something we now do in an objective manner,” says Fredrick Regnell, the Ecoloop project manager.
All water from the closed water system that surrounds the field, flows to different collection wells which are fitted with granulate traps.
“We separate the water that goes through the pitch and the surface water to different wells. Flow meters have been fitted so we can measure the spread of microplastics via drainage and via surface water. Each well also has a granulate filter. This allows us to see how effective they are because we take samples in a wells further downstream. Eventually, the water ends up in a stormwater pond where we took reference values before the pitch was installed to enable us to see whether the microplastics volume has increased significantly or just slighty’, says Fredrick Regnell.
Important for Swedish football
The project also investigates what causes the dispersion, be it games or operational activities.
“During the project, we will examine how much is being transferred by the players. We do this by brushing a number of teams once they get off the field and see how much we collect. The aim is to chart all the ways in which the granulate can leave the pitch,” says Sara Gripstrand.
“Everyone says that a lot of microplastic from artificial turf pitches disappears. This project will help establishing precise figures. Synthetic pitches are extremely important to Swedish football because they extend the playing season. That is why it is so clearly very important that they should be safe and not harm either players or the environment,” concludes Ronni Lundqvist, pitch establishment manager at the Swedish Football Association.