How TenCate Grass approaches the European ban on intentionally added microplastics

The worldwide demand for synthetic turf is growing. In parts of the world where climate doesn’t allow natural grass to grow, synthetic turf remains essential to enable everyone to play. In addition, in parts of the world where many people are living in very crowded places, synthetic turf is indispensable to achieve the high amount of playing hours needed.

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In spite of this, using synthetic turf to enable unlimited sports, play and recreation is something TenCate Grass wants to do in a hundred years as well. Therefore, designing sustainable systems is at the top of our priority list in terms of research, development and testing.

Classically, since the 90’s, synthetic turf systems for sports use infill to keep the yarns straight and offer technical characteristics that resemble natural grass. A lot of times, polymeric granules such as SBR, TPE and EPDM are used as an infill material.

In 2018, debate has started on the use of plastic infill materials, as they are considered to be intentionally added microplastics. Microplastics have been defined by the European Union as small pieces of plastic (< 5 mm in diameter). There are growing concerns that plastic particles are increasing prevalence in the environment and the EU via ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) have a public consultation to restrict intentionally added microplastics. The EU consultation covers many sources of intentionally added microplastics including cosmetics and agricultural but also the infill materials used in synthetic turf systems. TenCate Grass supports and encourages the desire to restrict / reduce intentionally added microplastics.

For years, TenCate Grass has invested in research and developments to reduce the impact of infill materials and to minimize the likelihood of infills spreading outside of sports fields, but also to replace the need of using plastic infills:

Less Infill System Design – Using less infill materials in the design of our synthetic turf systems. This is done by adding an improved shock absorbing layer below the synthetic turf and/or by increasing the density and volume of yarn fibres.

Containment – Design the sports facility to place barriers between the infill material and the environment. This can include transitional zone, filtration systems in the drainage, barriers / fencing around the field and many other interventions to reduce the pathways from the synthetic turf system to the environment.

Alternatives Infills – The development and use of infill materials that are not classified as microplastics such as natural infills including cork, wood and similar organic materials.

No Infills – The development of turf systems that do not require any infill materials called non-filled turf systems.

TenCate Grass believes that, in the short term, infill classified as an intentionally added microplastic is no longer needed or accepted in the marketplace and we are well prepared with many good options for our partners and clients.

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The TenCate Grass perspective on water usage in hockey