BANNING 3G plastic pitches in Scotland would "seriously harm" the provision of sports facilities across the country.

The EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) hit back after an academic said the tiny black rubber infill used on the surfaces can cause cancer.

Professor Andrew Watterson of the University of Stirling, had argued that a tougher stance from the government is “essential to protect users of all ages, the public, and workers who make, maintain and dispose of the crumb”. 

All-weather plastic pitches are prevalent across West Fife - a new surface was laid at Pitreavie playing fields recently, Dunfermline High School's pitch was upgraded last year while Dunfermline Athletic are in the process of installing one at their training ground in Rosyth.

However, Stefan Diderich, director general / CEO of the ESTC, said: “The suggestion that 3G pitches should be banned across Scotland ignores two very important factors.

“The first is that a number of independent scientific studies have shown there to be no health risks associated with European sourced rubber infill, with a major pan-European study having taken place in the last four years.

“The second is that the European Commission’s decision to ban the sale of synthetic and recycled infill such as ELT (end of life tyres) rubber from 2031 is part of a wider environmental strategy to reduce microplastics.

Central Fife Times: Dunfermline High School's new £200,000 pitch was laid last year. Dunfermline High School's new £200,000 pitch was laid last year. (Image: Fife Council)

"The same rules also apply to other product categories such as cosmetics and detergents and have nothing to do with any potential health concerns.

"We fully support the use of sustainable alternatives to granular rubber infill, with a number of natural infills such as cork, processed olive stones and wood chip already available on today’s market.

“Banning 3G pitches in Scotland would seriously harm the provision of sports facilities across the country, which not only benefit the physical and mental health of thousands of people, but also aid the development of the country's most popular sports."

The EU have said that infill material for use on synthetic turf sport surfaces is "the largest contributor in terms of use of microplastics in products" as well as the "largest source of environmental emissions of intentionally-present synthetic polymer microparticles at European level”.  

Their new regulations give field owners eight years to make the transition away from ELT infill.

Professor Watterson has urged the Scottish and UK governments to stop “procrastinating” and deliver their own ban. 

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We work closely with Sportscotland and the Sports Pitch Construction Association and its code of practice which acknowledges the difficulty in trying to balance the health and wellbeing benefits that come from the use of 3G pitches with environmental sustainability factors. 

“There are currently no widely available alternative infill products with proven durability on the market that are as effective, suitable for all UK weather conditions and deliver the required performance standards. 

“At least 95 per cent of the material in use falls within the limits set in restriction under EU Reach."