Sustainability challenges of synthetic turf
CE Delft has analysed the sustainability challenges posed by synthetic turf sports pitches. Several issues emerged:
– Dispersion of microplastics into the environment
– Environmental pressure and circularity
– The application of chemical agents and plant protection products
– Release of environmentally harmful substances
At present, there are two schemes related to making artificial turf more sustainable:
BOSA sustainability incentive
The BOSA (stimulation of construction and maintenance of sports accommodations) is intended for amateur clubs that incur costs for materials and construction/maintenance of the accommodation. In the BOSA scheme, a number of investments related to sustainability are additionally subsidised. The standard subsidy for sports facilities amounts to 20% of the costs of the eligible activities up to a maximum of EUR 2,500,000 per calendar year. For priority activities such as circular measures for artificial grass, it is possible to receive an additional 10% subsidy.
This scheme (specific allowance stimulating sport) can give a subsidy of 17,5% for the budgeted amount of activities for construction and maintenance of sport activities to municipalities or municipal sport companies if no BOSA subsidy can be applied for and if no VAT or turnover compensation is possible. This arrangement does not yet include sustainability measures. In the context of agreements on corporate social responsibility purchasing with municipalities, it is conceivable that SRP is applied to the purchase of the pitch. Or that the subsidy amount will then be higher.
CE Delft’s advisory report on making synthetic turf more sustainable recommends taking a closer look at both schemes and, where the budget allows, supplementing or extending them.
What can already be done about the synthetic turf problem?
In any case, it is clear from the study that all stakeholders must work together to make synthetic turf more sustainable and do their bit. We have been doing this for almost two years now by manufacturing recycled artificial grass products in order to reduce the artificial grass waste mountain. When looking at the sustainability challenges of coastal grass pitches, we can make the following concrete contributions:
Spreading microplastics to the environment
The spread of microplastics and other soil-unfriendly materials to the surroundings is mainly caused by infill material. The extent to which this occurs is strongly dependent on the management and maintenance of the field.
The duty of care for the environment in the construction and maintenance of sports fields is therefore very important. Certainly in the case of artificial grass pitches. This is why the Branchevereniging Sport en Cultuurtechniek (BSNC), together with all parties involved, has drawn up a new duty of care document. Clients and contractors have a joint responsibility and legal duty of care to clean the soil. To achieve this, we supply edging boards with a rubber strip and brush mats made from recycled artificial grass. With these products made from recycled artificial grass you kill two birds with one stone. By applying these products, municipalities contribute to their legal duty of care to keep the soil clean by preventing the spread of microplastics. In addition, a contribution is made to reducing the artificial grass waste mountain. It also has an additional benefit. In 2019, the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland described a number of measures with which parties could receive additional funding (10% extra) when applying for the BOSA 2020. These include the edge boards and walkway grids made from recycled synthetic turf.
Environmental pressure and circularity
Environmental impact relates to the use of raw materials and the generation of CO2 emissions through the use, application and disposal of synthetic materials in the synthetic turf product. This can be reduced by, among other things, using recyclate in the production and the high-quality recycling of synthetic turf after its useful life.
When processing artificial grass mats, the various materials are processed, separated, cleaned and recycled. This creates different types of reusable raw materials, including sand, infill and recycled artificial grass. The infill of artificial grass pitches is mostly SBR rubber granules but TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) and natural infill material such as cork are also used. After the recycling process the infill can be reused as clean raw material or the material can be used as a circular raw material for various products. Think of rubber tiles, water retention panels, etc. After the artificial grass fibres have been separated from the other raw materials, the artificial grass is converted into agglomerate. The artificial grass agglomerate is not a standard reusable raw material and if it is not put into motion, waste is still generated. We have therefore been the first to offer various circular solutions in the field of artificial grass. The recycled artificial grass agglomerate forms the basis for the manufacture of our products, such as: edging boards, picnic tables, verge posts and shore protection.
Our products are provided with a reach statement and a raw materials declaration. In this way, we can provide our customers with even more certainty about the origin and processing of the raw materials and the effects on people and the environment. To provide even more assurance, we also hold the following certificates for the production of our products: ISO 9001: Quality Certificate, ISO 14001: Environment Certificate and the OHSAS 18001: Safety Certificate. GreenMatter products are 100% recyclable at the end of their useful life.