The European Synthetic Turf Organisation (ESTO) organized a two-day congress in Brussels on 7 and 8 June. The congress was sponsored by Total and saw seven Working Groups come together to discuss, debate and move forward their segment of synthetic turf. This included the following groups (Landscape, Sustainability, Ecolabel, Maintenance, Recycling, Yarn, Shock pads, Infill).

European Synthetic Turf Organization Congress 2016, Brussels

European Synthetic Turf Organization Congress 2016, Brussels

The congress also gave the ESTO members an insight into a) What’s happening in the industry b) Digital and marketing inspiration c) Technical focus on rubber crumb.

Philippe Thiraux, Business Manager – infrastructure and durables gave a short introduction and welcome. Nigel Fletcher, Executive Chairman gave a word of welcome and a full detail overview of what is occurring at ESTO and for members to maximise the marketing and communication benefits of which there are plenty. Emphasis was put on the dual focus off “technical” and “marketing” with overall strategy to ensure synthetic turf and the benefits are constantly portrayed to a diverse audience. Nigel continued to focus on landscape market and in particular the landscape classification – continued positive developments occurring with the first product now passed.

At different points of the day both Magali Geens, Managing Partner of Insites consulting gave a powerful presentation on marketing especially focussing on digital platforms. Kevin Roberts from the Roberts network gave an insight into the innovation and marketing of the global sports industry.

EU issues and dealing with them are becoming more important component for the synthetic turf industry. Frederic Van Houte, Director General, EATP/CIRFS delivered an insightful overview. A variety of presentations on the hot topic of “rubber crumb” followed leading to a healthy discussion and debate. Alastair Cox gave a round up of the technical aspects of the synthetic turf industry featuring CEN, Landscape. The final presentation came from Stefan Diderich, Board member of Synthetic Turf Council (and also ESTO member) who gave an overview of activities and structure in North America.

The Secretary General of ETRMA, Fazilet Cinaralp, spoke about ELT management practices in Europe, also about the evolution of the treatment routes and about the opportunities and threats of a circular economy.

ELT Management in Europe

ELT Management in Europe

He mentioned that a growing number of chemical substances are identified as being of concern for health or the environment, and become subject to restrictions or prohibitions. However, according to him, these substances may be present in products sold before the restrictions applied, some of which have a long lifetime, and therefore chemicals of concern can sometimes be found in recycling streams. Such substances can be costly to detect or remove, creating obstacles in particular for small recyclers.

Mr. Cinaralp stressed, that the promotion of non-toxic material cycles and better tracking of chemicals of concern in products will facilitate and improve the uptake of secondary raw materials. According to him, the interaction of legislations on waste, products and chemicals must be assessed in the context of a circular economy in order to decide the right course of action at EU level to address the presence of substances of concern, limit unnecessary burden for recyclers and facilitate the traceability and risk management of chemicals in the recycling process.

Mr. Cinaralp continued also on the topic of crumb rubber as a sustainable resource. He stated, that a large number of papers and scientific reports have been published worldwide by public and private institutions trying to assess the risk related to the usage of recycled rubber in artificial turf and playgrounds. All these studies, said Mr. Cinaralp, converged in concluding that there are no significant or scientifically justified health risks due to the PAHs impurities in tyre crumb rubber.

In conclusion he stated that ELT is an important resource for society, which should be valorized towards sustainable circular economy. Artificial turf and shock absorbing surfaces are the two most important markets, said Mr. Cinaralp, for the ELT recycling sector in Europe.

The topic of crumb rubber health allegations was then further continued by William Anderson and Salome Cisnal de Ugarte. After naming some of the major investigations on the topic, they name the underlying issues with those investigations. The then cited a paragraph from the Minutes of Caracal Meeting November 2015, which states the following:

“[An] Observer further referred to a number of studies made in relation to exposure of players using synthetic turf sports fields […] which, in their view, proved that there was no significant risk. They concluded by indicating the urgency for their sector in having a reply since municipalities are their main customers, currently preparing their procurements for 2016 and highlighted the disastrous consequences, in their view contrary to the circular economy concept, that a prohibition of these recycled granulate would have.”

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Cisnal de Ugarte than summarized as key findings, that crumb rubber infill in synthetic pitches is a “mixture” and not an “article”, that crumb rubber is not within the scope of the prohibition of paragraph 5 of Entry 50, Annex XVII to REACH, but that it needs t ocomply with Entry 28 of Annex XVII to the REACH Regulation (general limit on the presence of substances which are carcinogenic and are placed on the market, or used by themselves, or in mixtures, for supply to the general public – a maximum limit of 0.1% for some PAH substances in rubber and of 0.01% for others (such as benzo (a) pyrene)).

As final considerations they concluded their presentation, by saying that the European Commision is not biased against crumb rubber, that the multiple health studies until now have not identified any actual link between crumb rubber with cancer, but also that the request of ECHA’s investigation is based on the precautionary principle, which is one of the pillars of EU regulatory law – the need for more clarity. They recommend a strategy to allow for cooperation with ECHA (e.g. provide scientific and legal input, participate in ECHA’s process from its very beginning, etc.), while managing relationships and the potential media impact.

Another presentation about recycled tyre materials was also given by the president of ETRA, Dott. Ettore Musacchi. After presenting the characteristics of RTMs, and the various potential uses of recycled rubber, steel and textile, Mr. Musacchi explained the benefits of using artificial turf and analyzed the environmental and health risks involved with it.

Principal Market Sectors for Recycled Rubber

Principal Market Sectors for Recycled Rubber

He then summarized the results, by stating all the materials, products and applications, and in particular those of artificial turf, have been in use for many years and have been repeatedly submitted to tests according to a broad range of EU and International norms.  He also said, that there is no evidence that these products, for their specific use, may represent a risk for the environment or for human health. He concluded, by saying that although the issue now may seem complicated, it is time to work together in order to find a solution.

Alastair Cox from the European Synthetic Turf Organization (ESTO) spoke about the European standards for synthetic turf. He explained that the created by CEN (Committee for European Standardization) European Standards can be two types – harmonized (written to support EU regulations and allow CE marking of products) and voluntary (written to support industry and remove trade barriers, which can also contain mandatory requirements). Mr. Cox also explained that the essential characteristics of the construction products regulations are reaction to fire, slipperiness, dangerous substances, shock absorption and durability. Responsible committee for the European Standards for sports surfaces, according to Mr. Cox, is the established in 1990 CEN TC 217: Surfaces for sports areas. The current structure of the responsible committee is comprised by WG2 (indoor surfaces for multi-sports use), WG6 (synthetic & synthetic turf surfaces), WG10 (environmental & toxicological properties) and WG11 (test methods). Mr. Cox explained that the current work program of the committee is to produce harmonized European Standards to comply with EU mandates and regulations, to review and update current specifications, to review and update current test methods, and to develop new test specifications.

Nigel Fletcher rounded up the second day of the Congress, thanked the sponsors TOTAL and revealed FIFA Museum 2017, Zurich will be the destination of ESTO Congress 2017.