Council championing Australia’s most environmentally sensitive synthetic playing field
20 May 2021
In an Australian first, Lane Cove Council will pioneer the nation’s most environmentally sensitive synthetic playing field. Council’s Bob Campbell Oval synthetic field project is proposed to be constructed free of surface performance infill, typically made of micro plastics.
The absence of performance infill removes the possibility of micro plastics migrating into the environment. Council is planning to follow the European Committee for Standardisation’s standard for synthetic surfaces by specifying a no performance infill or NF (no-fill surfaces) turf system. By doing so, the local project will align with international best practice, which has seen this technology utilised in over 20 countries.
While a similar standard is expected to be ratified in Australia soon, Lane Cove Council is getting ahead of the game. It has identified suppliers that have developed products, known as 4G Synthetic Turf systems, which remove the potential migration of microplastics (typically crumbed black rubber or elastomer polymer (plastic) granules) from the synthetic field into the environment. The absence of crumbed black rubber infill also reduces the heat island effect.
When speaking of the exciting development, Mayor Pam Palmer said: “This is a significant step forward in environmental performance and I’m pleased that Lane Cove Council will be kick-starting an Australian first. If our efforts enable a faster take up of this new technology, then it’s a win-win for the environment and the community”.
The project will run concurrently with the NSW Government’s review of the use of synthetic turf surfaces requested by the Minister of Planning and Public Spaces, and Council has committed to use the outcome of this review to inform the final design of the project.
The new 4G synthetic turf systems also retain the actual synthetic grass fibres better than previous systems. Most synthetic surfaces are made of synthetic grass fibres stitched into a backing material and bonded/glued using either latex or polyurethane. The new synthetic surface proposed is a fully woven product made of one polymer family (polyolefin). The woven construction results in the grass fibres and backing structure being produced as one combined product, with superior tuft lock and filament bind to traditional tufted grass. This will significantly reduce the likelihood of lost fibres migrating into the environment.
Council will also be making sure that the end-of-life result from the new field’s surface is environmentally sensitive.
Being made up of one type of plastic, it will much easier to recycle the synthetic surface at the end of its life, as there is no requirement to separate the synthetic fibres from the glue and backing material.
Council will be working with universities and industry to develop end-of-life opportunities for the recycled material, including the industry’s leading turf manufacturers who have already developed products that use large quantities of plastic waste such as end-of-life turf.
“In my 40 years in the industry I have seen the shift in how we deliver community sports facilities to meet the demands of our growing population and it is through innovations such as this non-infill surface that we can meet our responsibilities to the next generation”. Martin Sheppard is one of the world’s predominant advisors on sports surfaces and is recognised as Australia’s leading independent advisor for the use of synthetic sports surface technology.
The Bob Campbell Oval project also includes a range of improvements for passive recreation including new dog off-leash areas, fitness track, upgraded playground, BBQ picnic area and amenities building.