How could tougher microplastics restrictions impact artificial turf pitches?

12th Jun 2020

This week, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)’s risk assessment committee backed restriction proposals for an EU ban on the deliberate addition of microplastic particles to products. As part of this, the committee agreed on the need for a total ban on the use of microplastics in artificial grass playing fields.

Does this mean that artificial pitches will be banned?

Not at all. If this position is adopted and a ban put into place, it relates specifically to the use of microplastics in artificial turf – so would only impact plastic derived infill, such as SBR, TPE and EDPM, commonly used in 3G pitches.
A ban would thus involve the removal and replacement of that infill material with an organic alternative. Non-fill water-based pitches, sand-dressed and sand-filled pitches would be unaffected by this.


When might a ban come into place?

There’s still a long way to go before any changes to the use of artificial turf microplastics are decided upon or implemented by the European Commission.
Here’s the timeline of events so far, and what’s yet to come:


The European Commission asked the European Chemicals Agency to prepare a restrictions proposal targeted at reducing pollution from microplastics and oxo-plastics in products for professional and consumer use – including artificial turf.



The ECHA proposed a wide-ranging restriction on intentional uses of microplastics. The Committee of Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Committee of Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) asked to deliver their opinions by the end of 2020.

June 2020

The ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) has finalised its opinion, recommending a ban on the use of polymeric infills in artificial turf.
The Socio-economic Analysis Committee (SEAC) has reached its draft opinion, which is inconclusive, considering two options:
  • Introducing risk management measures to contain synthetic infill material on artificial pitches
  • A complete ban (in line with the RAC)
This is where we’re currently at.

2020 – 2022

Both committees will deliver finalised opinions to the European Commission by the end of 2020. The Commission will consider the opinions and if the conditions for restrictions are met, will prepare a proposal which member states can vote on in the REACH committee.
This vote would be followed by scrutiny by the European Parliament and Council before any proposed restrictions could be adopted. Based on the timeline provided by the ECHA, the earliest that the EU would adopt any proposed restrictions would be 2022.


The RAC has recommended a transitional period of six years from any adoption date. So, if restrictions are adopted in 2022, the earliest they would come into force is 2028.

What can artificial pitch owners do if a microplastics ban is adopted by the EU?

Ultimately, it might be that no changes come into force. Yet, as we move towards a more environmentally aware future, we believe it’s best to prepare for the very real possibility that there will either be a complete ban or enforced containment measures, on microplastics in artificial turf.

As we discussed in our article last year, we’re proud to already offer many of the measures required for clients to adapt should this ban, or mitigation methods, come into place.

Whether these measures are adopted by the EU, or you simply want to ensure your facilities are as environmentally sound as possible, our dedicated teams will provide guidance and advice on the latest best practice and options available.

Currently, these options include:


  • Removing and replacing existing SBR infill with organic alternatives

If a ban is introduced, then the focus for existing artificial turf pitches will be safely removing any existing plastic infill with a suitable organic performance infill of the same quality. This process uses specialised equipment to ensure no damage to the artificial turf fibres.

We work exclusively with leading artificial turf manufacturers FieldTurf, who already offer organic performance infill in the form of PureFill and PureSelect, fully certified to governing body criteria such as FIFA and World Rugby Regulation 22.


Coventry Rugby Club following the removal and replacement of performance infill
  • Constructing pitches with proven alternative turf solutions that do not require SBR

In the case of new 3G pitches, which use a combination of sand and performance infill material, this will involve selecting an organic infill material (as above) to be used in place of SBR or similar plastic products.

It’s worth noting that by the time any such measures come into place, non-fill artificial turf technology currently in development – often referred to as ‘4G’ – may be certified for use, removing the need for performance infill altogether.


  • Retrospectively install containment measures to existing pitches

Even with a complete ban on microplastics, environmental charity FIDRA have suggested that containment measures should still be introduced to protect the environment from infill migration.

Containment measures that can be fitted retrospectively include:

  • Physical ‘ground-up’ barriers around the pitch
  • Advanced silt traps in drainage systems
  • rush off zones and stamp off trays in the entrances and exits to the pitch


  • Designing new pitches with containment measures in place

For new pitches, the above elements can be built into the pitch design, as well as additional options such as building elevated edges or a solid surface around the perimeter of the pitch.


  • Offering true recycling options for end of life turf and infill

When artificial turf has come to the end of its useful life, we can advise on economically and environmentally sound options for recycling of turf and infill into new materials.

Having already completed the removal and recycling of several field installations in the US, FieldTurf is at the forefront of developing technology to expand end-of-life turf applications. Their Driving The Field To Zero initiative is a commitment a future where none of their artificial turf products make it to landfill.

S&C Slatter are committed to ensuring that our business operates in the most environmentally sound way possible.

Our in-house Health, Safety and Environmental Quality Manager is working to ensure business-wide compliance in line with the latest guidance. This includes working towards an ISO 14001 accreditation, the acquisition of specialist plant and machinery operating with biofuels and the implementation of new policies and procedures.

We’ll keep a close eye on the developments in the proposed ECHA restriction and ensure that if and when restrictions come into place, we’ll be ready to help clients ensure their artificial pitches are compliant with regulations.

Preparing for a microplastic free future with S&C Slatter and FieldTurf

If you would like to discuss the latest recommendations from the risk assessment committee, or would like to discuss alternative infill methods, pitch recycling or similar, please get in touch with us on 01635 345 21 or email