Concern has been expressed by a Kerry politician that the European Commission’s proposal to ban the use of micro-plastics in sports fields would impact on thousands of artificial pitches in Ireland and it would have a major impact on clubs, schools, communities and colleges.
MEP Seán Kelly was commenting on plans to ban micro-plastics in the creation of sports fields, cosmetics and the manufacture of cleaning products.
While acknowledging the negative environmental impact of micro-plastics, he said there is a need need for a balanced approach that considers the socio-economic consequences and the interests of sports in communities.
The European Commission’s proposal specifically targets the use of micro-plastics derived from old tyres as infill on artificial sports surfaces, including those used for football, hockey, GAA and rugby training facilities.
The increased usage of old tyres in artificial turf can be attributed, in part, to the ban on landfilling scrap tires in the EU but, the Kerry MEP pointed out, a ban on their use in sports pitches would pose challenges for the EU recycling industry, as the leftover rubber would not be easily absorbed.
Mr Kelly estimated that the proposed ban would impact up to 2,500 artificial pitches in Ireland alone and tens of thousands of surfaces across the EU, affecting sports clubs, schools, communities, colleges, and universities.
“In Irish football, for instance, there are approximately 600 all-weather, full-sized pitches attached to soccer clubs, along with thousands of smaller facilities in communities, school and colleges.
“The cost of constructing a full-sized facility currently ranges from €400,000 to €600,000, a figure that would substantially increase if environmentally-friendly alternatives, such as coconut shell, hemp, or cork, were mandated,” he said.
Mr Kelly maintained that those may not be feasible or sustainable and may not be suitable for cooler climates.
The Ireland South MEP expressed concern for the potential consequences of the ban, stating that hundreds of sports clubs across the country received grants from the government to build artificial pitches and with a ban, many of these clubs could disappear due to the weight of the final burden.
“The absence of a clear, cost-effective alternative emphasises the need for a comprehensive impact assessment to understand the socio-economic implications of such restrictions,” Mr Kelly stated.
“As the science is evolving, there are no perfect solutions at this stage, however it is imperative that we strike a balance between environmental protection and the legitimate interests of sports,” he remarked.
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