ESTC Congress 2022
In March I attended the two-day ESTC Congress 2022, which was held in Nice. This year's event covered numerous topics currently impacting the synthetic turf industry in Europe and beyond.
Photo left to right: Colin Corline, Jason Douglass, Garry Martin and Prof. David James
Like SAPCA, the ESTC has working groups developing standards and technical guidance for their members, and the wider marketplace. Delegates were provided an update on the work of these groups during the opening day, with topics ranging from maintenance, turf production, recycling, landscaping, yarn, shockpads and infills.
In the recycling working group, SAPCA Chair, Jason Douglass, provided a summary presentation on the current activities of the association. His presentation included the association's current and future initiatives on environmental sustainability and highlighted examples of SAPCA members' activities in solutions for end-of-life turf recycling.
On the second day ESTC's Director-General, Stefan Diderich, gave an update on the ESTC organisation and welcomed the delegates to their 2022 Congress.
John Baize from ACT Global then gave attendees an update on the work of Synthetic Turf Council (STC), offering insight from a North American perspective and the work being done jointly between ESTC and STC, including some strong messaging around how he saw the collaboration between Europe and the US market.
Eric O'Donnell of SAPCA member Sports Labs was presented with the 2022 ESTC Award by Massimo Seghezzi. Eric has been inducted into the ESTC Hall of Fame in recognition of his 43 years of service to the turf industry, following in the footsteps of last year's inaugural nominee, Dr Colin Young.
Martin Sheppard of the Smart Connection Consultancy in Australia delivered an excellent, thought-provoking presentation discussing how global environmental activism needs to be embraced, not resisted. He stressed the importance of changing industry messaging and tone to highlight the positive social impact of well-designed and appropriately located synthetic turf sports fields in communities.
Martin's main message was that, in the face of environmental concerns, it is important for our industry to communicate the positive social outcomes that can be delivered by synthetic sports fields in terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and economic models to demonstrate the social return on investment. From a SAPCA perspective this tone of messaging is something that Sport England and other bodies in the UK have been keen to stress in the development of sports facilities and local plans for the delivery of sport.
There were also a series of panel discussions held throughout the day. The first – hosted by Paul Fraser from Tarkett Sports and featuring Katharina Witsel (FIFA), Alastair Cox (FIH) and Marc Douglas (World Rugby) – discussed how technical performance and the design of sustainable solutions should evolve.
The second panel discussion was hosted by Eric O'Donnell, with the topic of end-of-life solutions for synthetic turf systems. Eric was joined by Eric van Roekel of GBN Group, Dennis Andersen of Re-Match and Thomas Busquin from TotalEnergies. In a strong debate the challenges were clear in terms of the extent and availability of end-of-life solutions for synthetic turf. The session also highlighted how things are moving at a pace and the industry must deal with the ever growing need for more viable solutions in this area.
The final panel session focused on the future environmental challenges for landscaping turf, with Erwin Rutteman (Condor Grass), Andy Driver (Evergreens UK) and Johan Kemel (Kunstgrascentrum) offering their insights. In an emerging market for SAPCA members it was great to gain some perspective on the similar issues faced by landscaping turf suppliers in Europe.
René Itten of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences talked about the work he has done on the environmental life cycle assessment of sports fields. Interestingly, in this City of Zurich study, synthetic football pitches were found to have a significantly lower environmental impact than natural turf pitches.
Luca Zampori from Pré Sustainability explained the benefits of product environmental footprint (PEF) for the synthetic turf industry. The day was brought to a close by Jeremy Stewart of SASPI, who gave an update on the challenges and opportunities in the South African synthetic turf market.