Brussels – The European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) proposed ban on the use of rubber granules as infill material for synthetic turf would have a “catastrophic” impact on tire recycling in Europe, industry leaders believe.
The warning follows a recommendation by the ECHA Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) to ban all ‘microplastics’ infills in order to prevent environmental releases from sports areas.
The Helsinki-based agency’s rationale for the proposed measure – to apply after a transition period of six years – was that “information on the effectiveness of risk management measures was incomplete.”
According to Max Craipeau, chairman of the tire & rubber committee of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), the prospects for the recycling industry in the wake of such a ban would be “scary.”
Speaking in an 11 June e-forum, Craipeau, who is founder of China-based Greencore Resources, added that the move represented a threat to “all polymeric infill materials in this application.”
Addressing the same event, Fazilet Cinaralp, secretary general of the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) warned of the “catastrophic” consequences if such an important market for crumb rubber were lost.
Instead, the ETRMA leader called for a “fact- and science-based” approach to regulation, noting that numerous studies had confirmed that crumb rubber infill presented no environmental or health risks.
“We have a strong fight ahead of us,” continued Cinaralp, pointing out that the proposed transition ahead of the ban would “still discourage investment.”
The RAC proposal comes at a time when the Italian government has agreed that tire-derived rubber will no longer be defined as waste and will instead be categorised as “a material,” noted Giovanni Corbetta, general manager of Ecopneus.
The Italian exemption requires tires to be washed to eliminate any surface contamination; the output to be sampled in a certified laboratory; and training for all employees working in the plant to help avoid any mistakes in fulfilling the criteria.
The move follows similar measures adopted by several other European countries – including Portugal, The Netherlands and Denmark – which have also agreed end-of-waste criteria, the BIR e-forum also heard.
With EU waste legislation currently under review, said Cinaralp, “we have an opportunity to make the case for end-of-waste criteria for end-of-life tires (ELTs) where we could really harmonise them across Europe.”