The Dutch synthetic turf market and industry have released a synthetic turf renovation and conversion guideline. The new document replaces a guideline that was introduced in 2017. Where the previous document focussed on working conditions, this new document aims to offer clubs and municipalities the tools to make conscious choices regarding the renovation or conversion of a synthetic turf pitch.
Ever since the commotion sparked by Dutch media in 2018 about end-of-life turf, the focus of depreciated synthetic turf pitches has completely shifted. The focus has shifted from the immediate impact to the long-term impact of synthetic turf. “The 2017 document mainly focused on the question: how do you clean up a synthetic turf field? However, the industry has evolved, while the renovation or conversion of a synthetic turf field these days involves many more aspects,” says Teun Wouters. Wouters is the chairman of the Circularity Working Group of the trade association BSNC. “Circularity is a very broad theme. That is why we first drew up a master plan about what to do with old synthetic turf before we started working on drafting this document.” Under the guidance of rapporteur Ulbert Hofstra, the document has been worked on for the past four years. “Contributions were made by contractors, suppliers and producers who had gathered under the banner of the BSNC, the Association of Sports and Municipalities and knowledge institutions and consultants. Other BSNC platforms, the BSNC Duty of Care Working Group, but also the various environmental services, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (IL&T), Rijkswaterstaat and the VSG standards committee for sports facilities were invited to comment.”
Wide range of aspects
The new guide discusses a wide range of aspects. For example, it considers the various steps to be followed during a renovation or conversion: the investigation into the environmental-hygienic and material-technical condition of the field, the preparation of the design and the specifications, the removal of the released materials and their disposal to an authorised processor for reuse. The various applicable laws and directives are also discussed. The Soil Protection Act and the legislation on waste are particularly relevant in this regard. “The law almost always regards a removed synthetic turf field as a waste product and therefore expects it to be processed as such,” explains Wouters. However, there are times or possibilities where the old turf can be reused elsewhere. To facilitate this correctly, the guide includes a number of criteria for continued reuse.
Get the competent authority involved
The guide strongly recommends involving the competent authority in the project as early as possible to avoid unnecessary discussions at a later stage. Usually, these are the municipality or environmental service. “Have the soil examined to determine whether or not it is contaminated with microplastics, or, for example, zinc that has leached from SBR infill. Also determine if the carpet should be recycled or if it can be reused somewhere. In the case of the latter, make agreements about where and for how long the recovered carpet and materials can temporarily be stored before they are removed. Also make an inventory of all the permits required to carry out the work,” Ulbert Hofstra warns. The document also strongly advises that the results of that soil investigation and the way in which the future owner wishes to dispose of the carpet be included in the design or specifications for the project.
The guide follows the R-ladder, the successor to the so-called Lansink Ladder. “This model contains six approaches or strategies of circularity,” explains working group member Bart van Pagée. Whereas Lansink’s Ladder mainly looks at the most environmentally friendly processing methods, the R-ladder has a broader approach to the waste policy regarding a product. “It starts with thinking about whether you should abandon a product or use it more intensively (Refuse and Rethink), through more efficient manufacturing or production (Reduce), to reuse (Reuse), and repair and reuse of product parts (Repair, Refurbish, Remanufacture and Repurpose) to Recycling before Recover can be considered.” In the latter case, this concerns the recovery of energy from materials.
The question: “What should be done to limit or completely exclude any future problems when the carpet is reused elsewhere?” was extensively discussed in the document drafting process. All parties agreed that end-of-life synthetic turf should not end up in the normal waste stream. With two fully specialised synthetic turf recycling plants now up and running in the Netherlands, this is totally undesirable.
According to the guide, continued reuse is only suitable for synthetic turf carpets that are not older than six years. A table has been included to help the reader to map out the risk of spreading fibres and infill from reclaimed synthetic turf. “In doing so, we follow what the Dutch Waste or Product Guideline (Lap 3) says about continued reuse,” says Van Pagée. This guideline has three basic principles that must be met before any consideration can be given as to whether recovered synthetic turf may be reused elsewhere:
- Is it certain that the material will be used?
- Is the intended use lawful?
- Is the intended use based on resource efficiency of sufficiently high quality?
Use is safe enough
The Waste or Product Guideline has the following starting point for ‘certain use’: the holder will have to demonstrate that the intended use of a material by himself or another person is not only ‘possible’, but that it is also sufficiently certain that this use will actually occur and that the material is also suitable for its intended use. The underlying reason for the condition of ‘certain use’ is that it must be clear that the material is not a burden for the holder. If it is a nuisance, then there are typical risks related to waste, namely, those of leaving it unattended and of irresponsible use in an application for which the material is environmentally or technically unsuitable. This can have harmful consequences for the environment or human health and/or lead to wasted resources. When assessing whether or not there is a burden, the economic context in which materials are transferred plays a major role.
Users of the synthetic turf renovation and conversion guideline are strongly advised to record agreements for reuse in writing. Otherwise, there is a good chance that the competent authority will hold the current owner accountable for misuse by third parties. Ask the future owner of the recovered synthetic turf if it is known what the new location will be and when the carpet will be installed. Can it demonstrate this on the basis of binding agreements and is all this guaranteed? Should the future owner choose to temporarily store the carpet, it must be determined whether this organisation has a valid history. In addition, it is recommended to require that it can demonstrate that its core business is to temporarily store materials before reusing them elsewhere. The new guide assumes that a government agency will guarantee the correct removal of the final end-of-life carpet, while the chance of this will be less for an association or private individual because they are unfamiliar with the matter.
According to the Waste or Product Guideline, lawful use requires the future owner to be able to demonstrate that the intended use of a material by himself or another person in any case complies with all applicable legislation and any private (commercial) product standards. It must also be established that the use does not have a major adverse effect on the environment or human health. “This requires the current owner to determine whether the product still meets the conditions for reuse. In short, is the mat not completely worn out and reuse no longer an issue? Does reuse not have a negative impact on the environment and human health and does intended use comply with all applicable laws?” says Van Pagée.
Sufficiently high quality
Even though the previous two questions may have been answered positively, much revolves around the question of whether the new application is of sufficient quality. According to the National Waste Management Plan, this is the case if it is assessed whether the intended use of the material is desirable from the point of view of resource efficiency. The background to this is that, even if a certain material could in principle be used safely and lawfully, the application in question will not always be optimal from the point of view of the protection of natural resources. If the intended application of the material leads to a ‘lower-value’ use, while in practice a better application is available from a resource-efficiency point of view, then raw materials are wasted and the application is not high quality. In such cases, there is no question of a by-product (continued) use or end-of-waste status, but of a waste material.
End of an era
The time of reselling pieces of recovered synthetic turf as carpet for the awning or backyard should come to an end with the introduction of the new guideline. The Handbook Renovation and Conversion of Synthetic Turf offers clubs and municipalities the tools to make conscious choices regarding the renovation or conversion of an artificial turf field.