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Statement by John Englart on Synthetic Turf to Moreland Council


John Englart addressing Moreland Council on Synthetic Turf 14 April 2021
(Image courtesy Moreland Council)

I made the following statement to Moreland Council on 14 April 2021 on Synthetic turf and its climate and environmental impact, although a few sections had to be skimmed over for brevity and meeting the 2 minute time limit. I also note problems with the audio feed during my speech on the video recording.

The vote to defeat this motion indicates that some Councillors may have already made their mind up prior to the public engagement being reported back to them and in listening to scientific advice on the subject. I identified clear flaws in the previous consultants report (February 2018) content and its presentation to Council in April 2018 that should indicate the need for a more transparent and in-depth independant assessment of current science on synthetic turf and artificial surfaces for proper triple bottom line decision making and governance.


Statement

Dear Councillors,

I would like to make a statement on Cr Conlan’s motion tonight: 8.13 Understanding The Environmental And Health Impacts Of Synthetic Turf In Moreland.

It is supported by a 72 page Annotated bibliography (in most recent version) containing 98 references of peer reviewed science, grey literature, and policy documents.

36 of the science research references were published since 2018, so are new research that was not considered by the Hybrid and Synthetic Sports Surfaces Needs Analysis prepared by Smart Connection consultancy dated February 2018, part of the Sports Surface Needs Analysis item from April 2018 Council Meeting.

The 2018 consultants report failed to fully take into account Greenhouse gas emissions (total life cycle assessment), impact on biodiversity, generation of microplastics pollution, urban heat island impact, and end of life disposal. The 2016 Moreland Urban Heat Island Action Plan wasn’t even included by the consultants.

None of the environmental or social impacts were raised in the executive summary of the Consultant’s report, or in the Council Officer report, which Councillors would have read to inform themselves to make an informed decision.

Some facts in numbers from my research:

200kg CO2e emissions per square metre for synthetic turf per 10 years (Report for FIFA 2017).

1500 tonnes CO2e for a FIFA standard pitch, average lifetime of 8-15 years. (Report for FIFA, (March 2017))

38,000 trees to plant and need to survive – to mitigate one FIFA standard synthetic football pitch at 0.039 tonne CO2e carbon sequestration per tree (Meil & Bushi, 2006). 

274 tonnes is how much waste a  FIFA sized pitch plastic carpet and infill generates to landfill as waste at end of life. (8-15 years), that will break down into microplastics, nanoplastics, potentially leach out polluting into waterways and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. (Eunomia Research 2017)

60.4 degrees Celsius – the surface temperature of Clifton Park synthetic turf measured on a warm 32C day, when the grass nearby measured 30.9C. (Englart, 3 November 2020)

16% increase in lower extremity injuries per play on synthetic turf than that on natural turf by elite players based on five years of USA NFL player injury data. (Mack et al 2019)

5% microplastic content in soil – has been shown at this level and above to impact native grass growth and survival.(Van Kleunan et al 2019)

0 – the number of synthetic turf pitches recycled in Australia so far. Manufacturer and Distributors of synthetic turf say their product is ‘recyclable’, but no synthetic turf is recycled in Australia (or even the much larger market in the USA) due to the high expense of separating polyethylene fibres, the polyurethane mat and the infill (whether sand, crumb rubber or more expensive plant based ingredients) into separate streams which even then would have a low recycling stream value. It all ends up as waste to landfill, although a relatively small proportion may be repurposed before ending as landfill.

“Significant reduction” – impact on birdlife abundance in parks affected by remodelling works that included artificial surfaces while in those non-remodelled it remained stable, according to a 2020 Spanish study (Bernat-Ponce et al 2020)

I draw your attention that Council has declared a climate emergency. It is your governance duties Under the Local Government Act 2020, under overarching governance principles (section 9.2)

“(b) priority is to be given to achieving the best outcomes for the municipal community, including future generations;

(c) the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the municipal district, including mitigation and planning for climate change risks, is to be promoted;”

I note the motion calls for an  officer report in the first instance. Before voting against this motion you should consider this does not commit Council to a new consultants report, just some Council officer time in a report on cost and timing of a consultants report with a further decision by Council in May whether to proceed with a full consultant report. 

If you vote this down it means you are abrogating your responsibility and good governance on this matter in establishing and Understanding The Environmental And Health Impacts Of Synthetic Turf In Moreland.

My final comment from the lecturn while holding up copies of the Moreland Zero Carbon – 2040 Framework and the Moreland Urban Heat Island Effect Action Plan 2016/2017 – 2025/2026 was for Councillors not to sell out these policies.

The motion:

8.13 Understanding The Environmental And Health Impacts Of Synthetic Turf In Moreland

Moved by Cr James Conlan. Seconded by Cr Sue Bolton

That Council:
Receives a report at the May 2021 Council meeting on the cost and timing for a report that investigates the: 1. Environmental impacts of synthetic turf in relation to;
a. The recyclability of synthetic turf at the end of its life, having regard to the recycling capacities in Victoria and Australia for synthetic turf
b. The leachability of toxins into ground water and waterways associated with synthetic turf
c. The associated biological impacts in relation to soil biota destruction, and loss of habitat for wildlife and insects
d. The urban heat island effects related to the conversion of natural green spaces to concreted/paved grey spaces
e. Carbon emissions associated with synthetic turf manufacturing 2. Health impacts of synthetic turf in relation to;
a. toxic off-gassing from degrading synthetic turf, rubber and associated materials
b. The heating of synthetic turf and/or concrete on people’s health when playing during hot weather
c. Comparison of injury rates associated with synthetic turf compared with well-maintained natural surfaces 3. Life-cycle financial costs of synthetic versus natural turf, taking into consideration the ongoing maintenance costs associated with cyclical synthetic turf replacement. 4. The report will incorporate:
a) a thorough literature review of current, peer-reviewed research into the above issues and risks.
b) An analysis of points 1,2 and 3 and their consistency with the following Council strategies, policies and plans:
• Access and Inclusion Policy
• Active Moreland Framework 2010-14
• Allocation of Sporting Grounds and Pavilions Policy
• Open Space Strategy 2012-2022
• Zero Carbon Moreland – Climate Emergency Action Plan
• Moreland Nature Plan
• Fossil Fuel Divestment Strategy
• Waste and Litter Strategy 2018 – 2022
• Urban Heat Island Effect Action Plan
• Integrated Water Management Strategy 2040

Result:

The motion was lost: 5 votes For, 6 votes against. A Division was called.

Voted In Favour: Cr Conlan, Cr Bolton, Cr Panopoulos, Cr Riley, Cr Pulford
Voted against: Cr Yildiz, Cr El-Halabi, Cr Tapinos, Cr Carli-Hannan, Cr Pavlidis, Cr Davidson.

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