Europe says goodbye to synthetic grass on sports fields

The European Commission set a deadline of eight years to end synthetic grass, which, according to various studies, is one of the main sources of microplastic emissions.

In recent years, artificial grass soccer fields have become one of the perfect solutions for the development of this very popular sport. Its low maintenance cost and easy installation allowed lower categories and amateur practice to develop easily.

The use of this material has sparked great optimism, especially on the part of training teams. However, Europe has ended the use of this type of plastic covering.

The European Commission has ordered the elimination of all sports facilities made of this material within a maximum period of eight years. This means that by 2031 it will no longer be able to be used in sports facilities.

One of the most important reasons for this decision is that it is one of the largest sources of microplastics that cause damage to the environment.

What material is synthetic grass made of?

It is made of polyethylene and is installed on a latex or polyurethane base. The next layer serves the purpose of cushioning and is made with recycled tires.

This material has also been installed in rugby, hockey and paddle sports fields, among others, as well as in playgrounds, squares and private gardens.

The situation is at a crossroads since there is currently no such economical and simple alternative to this artificial coverage.

To achieve this goal, the IGOID research team at the University of Castilla-La Mancha has just started a project called "Circular and safe solution for synthetic turf pitches (LIFET4C)", something like "Safe and circular solution for synthetic grass fields (LIFET4C)" due to its Spanish translation.

The objective is nothing less than to find the perfect substitute for rubber in sports facilities where plastic grass is currently found.

Scientists, companies and even the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) are amazed by this initiative to create a field prototype to explore possible solutions.

A provisional solution would be the one that some professional teams are already implementing: start using a hybrid material that mixes plastic grass with natural grass.

What impact does it have on the environment?

A study carried out at the University of Barcelona (UB) by a team of scientists has shown that artificial grass installed on sports fields releases microplastics that reach rivers and seas causing environmental pollution

"Two of the plastic fibers that we have found are those that coincide with current trends in global artificial grass production and that normally float in the aquatic environment. These microplastics are especially concentrated on the coast near large cities.“Detailed the first author of the study, William P. de Haan.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, provides methodological guidance for the future identification of microplastics in artificial grass, which will allow better investigation of the net environmental impact of these materials.

Anna Sánchez Vidal, another author of the study, stated: “If we want to end plastic pollution, we must rethink the installation of green plastic on public surfaces, such as schoolyards, sports fields, music festivals, gyms, private gardens or terraces.".

Every year in the European Union, approximately between 1.200 and 1.400 sports fields are equipped with artificial material that simulates natural grass using synthetic fibers, mainly plastic.

This decision will put an end to a large international business, but will provide relief to the pollution caused by microplastics, especially in waters.

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