How to deal with secondary microplastics

Environmental pollution from yarn wear is becoming an agenda item around the world. The biggest concern is the fields already installed. What can be done to prevent the issue being blown out of proportion?

The quality of synthetic turf yarns has greatly improved compared to a decade ago. However, the condition of currently used fields will shape the future of synthetic turf. Degradation over time and the potential release of particles beyond field perimeters could impact the acceptance of synthetic turf. Recent studies indicate synthetic turf fibers contribute to plastic pollution in water bodies. Researchers found significant amounts of fibers in water samples, raising concerns. Measures like kickboards and field supervision are essential to mitigate risks. Maintenance efforts vary based on field type, yarn, age, and usage intensity. Effective risk management can prevent microplastic pollution from synthetic turf fields.

Not necessarily maintenance

It is claimed that fibre wear starts after six to eight years and becomes more intensive after 10 years of use. Altogether a field may lose up to 12% of its fibres in ten years. To establish how much maintenance equipment contributes to yarn wear, testing institute Ercat conducted a test two years ago whereby various samples were subjected to 110 cycles of either brushing or raking. Prior to the test, each sample was subjected to 100 Lisport-XL cycles without abrasion plates. “The fibre thickness and width were measured both prior to and after the test. While we didn’t really observe much damage, damage was still visible,” says Gerrit de Koe of the city of Amsterdam who commissioned the study. He concluded that brushes of 3mm or more, could damage a field too much, hence he decided to only rake fields, going forward.

Regular deep-cleaning

John van Gennip points out that it is essential to maintain healthy infill levels. “As long as the infill is there, and at the correct level to maintain the fibre in an upright position so it can flex when weight is added, yarn wear will be reduced to the minimum.” He advises to brush a field once a month but also to drag once a week. “We have developed our own machine for deep cleaning a surface, something we advise doing once a year. The machine tosses up the infill before it is taken over a 4mm sieve to remove the microplastics. Dust extraction removes even the finest microplastic particles before the cleaned infill is added back to the field.”

Taking ownership

The European Commission has granted the textile industry permission to self-regulate, based on their promise to install filters of 1.6 micron in washing machines to capture even the smallest yarn fragments. As the synthetic turf industry is pursuing a similar position, the point is increasingly being made to make the vacuum of synthetic turf fields mandatory. “This is the advice currently given to owners of synthetic turf landscaping products, for which the market is much larger than that for synthetic turf for sports but that lacks equipment to adequately clean the surface,” Jan-Willem Kraaijeveld of GKB Machines points out. Owners of synthetic turf sports fields have the option to use several machines. “There is a Top-Clean to remove leaves or cigarette butts that are usually lying on top of the synthetic turf grass blades, but if you want to remove even the smallest microplastic particles, you can use the Deep-Clean.” Like the machine J&E Sports has developed, the GKB Deep-Clean also sieves the infill and uses dust extraction to separate microplastic particles from third-generation synthetic turf fields. “It is a bit more time consuming but it is the best guarantee that the field will be free from any microplastic particles, and, as such, will be safe for the environment and for continued use.”

More information

If you’re interested in delving deeper into similar information, please visit There, you can explore more insights and resources on topics like synthetic turf maintenance, fiber wear, and environmental impact. Dive into a wealth of knowledge to stay informed and make informed decisions about sports field management.