Brussels – The European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) has described 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’.
In a 10 June decision, ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) recommended a “complete ban” on using microplastics, including granules from end of life tires (ELTs) and synthetic elastomeric materials in artificial turf, after a six-year transition.
ECHA had proposed two options for addressing the risks posed by the microplastics, an agency spokeswoman said in a separate statement to ERJ.
“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.
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.
In response to the move, ETRMA secretary general Fazilet Cinaralp said a complete ban would be a ‘disproportionate’ measure which could cost Europe in excess of €1.5 billion.
“There are ways to control the spread of infill materials placed in fields and we hope that the SEAC opinion shall balance the benefits and downsides of the measure,” Cinaralp told ERJ 11 June.
According to ETRMA, some 527,000 tonnes of ELTs – 30% of market share – are processed to be used as infill materials in Europe.
In the case of a ban, this volume would need to be used in other applications or into energy recovery, which is in conflict with EU waste hierarchy principle, Cinaralp added.
ETRMA maintains that the rubber granulate used for infill is heavier than water and does not leave the pitch by itself, nor by wind nor by rain.
With simple measures, the statement added, the losses into the environment can be reduced to about 10 grams per pitch and year.
“ETRMA welcomes the position of ESTC and EURIC to ensure all fields throughout Europe incorporate containment measures,” it noted.
The European Commission, it suggested, could make it mandatory that measures be taken to reduce the spread of microplastics in new artificial grass pitches containing polymeric filling material. In addition, existing installations should be upgraded as soon as possible.
Also commenting on the move, the European Tyre Recycling Association (ETRA) said the decision to propose a ban was 'unfortunate'.
"The process is not yet finished, as it is still missing the opinion of SEAC Committee which is expected in the Autumn of 2020 and then the final decision of ECHA is expected in 2021," ETRA added in a statement 12 June.
However, it said, the RAC opinion will impact on the ongoing ECHA process and the final decision, posing "serious concerns" about the future possibility of using rubber infill materials in artificial turf.