Tyre rubber and microplastics – setting the record straight

The tyre recycling industry provides an essential environmental solution, diverting millions of tyres per annum away from landfill and instead turning them into rubber granule and shred – valuable raw materials for other industries.

Despite claims to the contrary (often well intentioned, but factually incorrect), recycled tyre rubber (commonly known as SBR) is NOT hazardous.  Responsible members of the Tyre Recovery Association (TRA) conduct regular and extensive testing to ensure SBR granules and shred are non toxic and free of other harmful substances.  In fact, one of the tests SBR has to pass is the same as used for children’s toys!

Some SBR granules do fall under the classification for microplastics (<5mm in size).  However, a large majority of SBR granule manufactured in the UK is used in resin bound form (mats, sports surface shock pads, playground safety surfacing base layers etc) making it virtually impossible for it to enter water courses.  When SBR is used in loose form, predominantly as an artificial turf sports pitch infill, there is a risk that a small volume could enter water courses, but the quantity is hotly disputed with many of the surveys appearing to vastly overstate the problem.  Even so, the sports industry has already developed a range of solutions to minimise the risk and there are committees developing European Standards that will define the correct use of recycled tyre rubber in artificial pitches.

Banning SBR infill is not the magic solution to the microplastics challenge – the volumes are infinitely small and there are measures in place to minimise the risk.

From an environmental activist and political standpoint, banning SBR infill is a high profile, easy win.  However, SBR based products are so insignificant in the overall picture, efforts should be focused elsewhere and not on banning products whose production provides an invaluable environmental protection and whose use, within sports and playground safety surfaces provides huge community and health benefits.

One final fact to consider is that If the small amount of infill that escapes from artificial turf sports surfaces is dangerous to health and the environment, surely there would have been control measures implemented before now, especially regarding tyres, millions of which wear out on our roads every year, creating SBR dust which enters the water course via roadside drainage.

It should be noted that CONICA does not produce or sell SBR granules for artificial turf infill.


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