ESTC synthetic turf

Synthetic Turf industry readies itself for new environmental standards

The synthetic turf industry has set its sights on the introduction of new environmental standards to prevent companies from making unsubstantiated environmental claims about their products.

At a workshop hosted in Brussels on December 12, 2023, the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) brought the industry together to provide insights on the intended application of the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology.

PEF Category Rules (PEFCR) is a framework established by the European Commission to offer a standardized method for calculating and communicating the environmental performance of products throughout their life cycle. The ESTC is close to finalizing a set of category rules for synthetic turf.

Led by ESTC’s appointed European PEF consultancy, PRé-Sustainability BV, the proposed synthetic turf PEFCR, will be applicable to the assessment of the environmental footprint of systems for sports and landscaping throughout their entire life cycle. As such, the rules will be applied to raw material acquisition, manufacturing, distribution, usage and end of life practices applied by manufacturers, installers, maintenance specialists and recycling facilities.

When applied, each synthetic turf system will be awarded a numeric PEF score, which can then be compared to a predetermined industry benchmark set out in the approved documentation.

The final draft of the PEFCR is currently under review by an external experts panel comprising representatives from FIFA; sustainability consultancy, Ecomatters BV; and sustainable development experts, RDC Environment. The PEFCR is expected to be approved and adopted by the European Commission by Spring 2024.

Professor Alastair Cox, technical director at ESTC, said, “Like many other industries, the synthetic turf sector has recognized the need for a harmonized and unbiased approach to assessing the environmental impact of its products and has invested a great deal of resource in developing a suitable system.

“Once introduced, we expect the PEFCR to have a significant impact on the way synthetic turf systems are assessed and compared by customers,” he added. ‘This will in turn accelerate the level of innovation applied to the manufacture, installation and recycling of synthetic turf, with the aim of being an even more appealing option for those situations where natural turf alternatives are not cost-effective, feasible or sustainable.

“As we draw ever closer to a landmark development for our industry, we are encouraging all industry stakeholders – from raw material suppliers through to recycling specialists – to familiarize themselves with the category rules and sharpen their focus on how they can help maximize the sustainability of the supply chain.”

To further accelerate the industry’s sustainability drive, ESTC has also developed a new Environmental Footprint Calculation Tool, which is set to be launched in early 2024. Developed in partnership with Pre-Sustainability, the new software is designed to enable companies to independently calculate the environmental footprint of their synthetic turf systems or a system’s individual components.