Biodegradable infill granules for artificial turf

The Emmen based company Senbis Polymer Innovation has developed new, biodegradable infill granules for artificial turf used on football pitches. This is an alternative for the rubber granulate made from used car tires, which are widely used but may contain toxic substances. Next to health concerns, it is estimated that between 18.000 and 72.000 tonnes of microplastic end up in the environment every year due to infill leakage.

In September 2019, Senbis started a pilot with this biodegradable infill in the City of Emmen at SC Erica. Developing the biopolymer granulate took several years, as the requirements are hard to meet: the granulate should last long on the pitch, but degrade quickly when it ends up in the environment. Furthermore, the granulate must result in a pitch that plays well. It was a high priority for Senbis to come up with an infill that assures good sports technical performance.

The final step

According to Technical Manager at Senbis Bas Krins, the new polymer granulate is degraded by bacteria when it enters the soil outside of the artificial pitch. On the pitch, there is little biological activity so the granulate is safe from degradation. Senbis spent several years creating an optimal formula for the material. After extensive laboratory testing, the field test will be the final step in product development. Krins expects that the quality of the pitch can be assessed in a matter of months. However, it may take seven to ten years to assess the durability of the new granulate in terms of biodegradation on the pitch

Reports contained serious flaws

Several years ago, news broke on toxic substances in the standard rubber granules, which might be dangerous for the health of young children playing on artificial turf pitches. Subsequent research by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM and the European Chemicals Agency ECHA suggested the health risks were negligible. However, in juli 2019, four Professors of toxicology and internal medicine wrote in the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (Netherlands journal of Medicine) that the reports by both RIVM and ECHA contained serious flaws, and risks to children from carcinogens and hormone-like substances in the rubber were underestimated.

Senbis focuses on biodegradable solutions for microplastic problems

Gerard Nijhoving, Managing Director at Senbis, reacted to the news on the reports, saying that the focus of Senbis is developing safe and environmental friendly bioplastic products. ‘We are not toxicological experts but bioplastic experts, so we don’t mingle in the discussion on health impact of rubber infill on players. Both the RIVM as the ECHA did actually conclude that a massive amount of infill causes microplastic pollution in the environment around pitches. We have a lot of experience with developing applications from biodegradable polymers. Avoiding environmental problems due to microplastics was also the main reason for us to develop this infill.’’

Senbis will have the commercial launch of their biodegradable infill named GreenFill on the 7th of April during the Expo. Be a visitor and sign up for the theme session: Biodegradable solutions for microplastic problems by Gerard Nijhoving, Managing Director Senbis