A European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) committee has recommended that the use of rubber granules for infill materials in artificial turf should be prohibited in the European Union and East Economic Area.
In a 10 June decision, ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) recommended a “complete ban” on using ‘intentionally-added microplastics’ in products in concentrations of more than 0.01 % weight by weight.
In a statement to ERJ, the chemicals agency confirmed that the granular infill materials from end-of-life tires (ELT) or other synthetic elastomers used in artificial turf are classified as intentionally-added microplastics.
According to ECHA, the releases of intentionally added microplastics in the EU/EEA are currently estimated to be around 42 kilotonnes a year.
Additional releases from infill material used in artificial turf pitches could amount to 16 kilotonnes per year, an agency spokeswoman told ERJ.
ECHA's proposed restrictions are claimed to prevent more than 90% of these releases, or 500 kilotonnes of microplastic releases over a 20-year period.
ECHA, said the spokeswoman, had proposed two options for addressing the risks posed by microplastics.
“One option was a ban on placing on the market after a transition period of six years. A second option was the mandatory use of risk management measures such as fences, and brushes,” she added.
The ban, she added, would require sports clubs and local communities to replenish existing pitches with other infill material such as cork, sand or biodegradable infill material.
“In the long run, existing pitches would likely be replaced by systems that do not use microplastic infill material,” she added.
In addition, the ECHA had proposed a lower size limit of 100 nanometres for a microplastic as analytical methods for detecting microplastics in products are still in development.
RAC recommended that a lower size limit was not necessary as the potential restriction could also be enforced in other ways, such as by looking at raw materials in supply chains.
ECHA’s Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) has agreed on the draft opinion but has a 60-day consultation period to announce its recommendations before the proposal is sent to the European Commission for approval.
Meanwhile, the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) has blasted the plan, describing the move by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to potentially place a ban on the use of rubber granules for infill materials in artificial turf as ‘costly and disproportionate’.