Crumb Rubber: On the 26th April, the European REACH Committee voted for the proposals to restrict microplastics introduced intentionally to many products.
Unless some high powered response can be raised by the recycling and artificial turf sectors, this signals the beginning of the end for many crumb rubber uses, the most prominent of which is crumb rubber infill.
It is estimated that over 20 years, the proposed restriction would prevent the release in the environment of about half a million tonnes of microplastics, at an estimated total cost up to €19 billion. The proposal will now be subject to a 3-month scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council before it can be adopted by the Commission.
The exact outome of such a ban is unclear, but it will absolutely be disruptive for the recycling sector. The topic was discussed at the recent EuRIC Recycler’s Talk on Mechanical Tyre Recycling. presentations were made by two projects, the Silkeborgbanen project in Denmark, which showed that with controls designed into the pitch from the outset, microplastics losses were limited to a a few kilogramms per year. Another from Spain on an adapted existing pitch showed slightly higher losses, but nonetheless much below the levels talked about by the ECHA RAC.
This proposed ban comes despite industry research into controlled crumb rubber pitches showing a minimal loss of microplastics. The evidence is probably too little and too late. Some say that support from the tyre manufacturers, the source of the raw material, has been lacklustre and that possibly did not help address the issue in the way that was required. Small to medium sized businesses would have to fight particulalry hard without the support of the global players whose materials they recycle.