‘Toxic’ arena surfaces could put riders and horses at risk

  • The Environment Agency (EA) is cracking down on “toxic” plastic waste being used in equestrian arena surfaces.

    The EA is warning riders of the dangers they could be putting themselves, their horses and the environment in by using inappropriate materials.

    People found with the substance on their land could face an expensive bill for its removal and disposal and could even be liable for prosecution.

    “Plastic granulate, derived from the recycling of cable sheathing and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and sold as an alternative surface for equestrian centres, could place horses and riders at risk, present a pollution hazard and lead to owners falling foul of the law,” said a statement from the EA.

    “Plastic granulate is a waste material derived from the recycling of cable sheathing and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

    “It’s being marketed by some waste producers and brokers as a base material for horse maneges and track surfaces. However, there is no legal route available for its use for this purpose except in accordance with an environmental permit.

    This granulate is being sold to be used as a cheap replacement for clean plastic granules derived as a by-product from plastics manufacture or granules specifically produced for horse maneges.”

    The permit mentioned by the EA spokesman is only applicable for licensed waste disposal facilities and could not be applied to allow the use of this material in equestrian arenas.

    plastic granulate equestrian arena surface

    The statement added the plastics present can contain persistent organic pollutants, phthalates and lead stearate.

    Weathering can cause leaching of these toxic substances into the wider environment, potentially causing contamination to land and groundwater,” said the statement.

    “Some plastic granulate may even be cross-contaminated with non-plastic elements such as metal fragments and glass, making surfaces where it’s used potentially harmful for horses and riders.”

    Certain waste materials, such as granulated rubber and wood chip, can be used in quantities up to 1,000 tonnes for horse maneges under a U8 waste exemption registration. But no such exemption is available for granulated plastic to be used as equestrian arena surfaces.

    British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) director Claire Williams told H&H the organisation “welcomes this crackdown on the use of potentially hazardous material”.

    “Reliable companies – including BETA members — always check the provenance of their materials and would never use this in their products,” she said.

    “Those seeking to produce cheap alternative surfacing must be made aware of the implications if they do not understand them, and those that are seeking to make a fast buck and have no consideration for the harm they might cause should be prevented from doing so.”

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    The EA is urging anyone who is approached and offered this material, but who doesn’t have an appropriate environmental permit, to contact the agency on 03708 506 506 or enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk. This is because producers and brokers of plastic granulate have a legal duty of care to ensure it is disposed of at a permitted facility.

    “We’re determined to eliminate avoidable waste and crack down on plastics as part of the government’s 25-year environmental plan,” said EA officer Greg Deakin.

    “We’re therefore urging those with equestrian facilities to carefully consider the use of this material.

    “It might be offered free of charge or for a small delivery fee, but it is an offence under the environmental permitting regulations to use this waste without appropriate environmental controls.

    “If you’re found to have plastic granulate waste deposited on your land without the appropriate environmental permit awarded by the Environment Agency, you could be fined and be liable for the cost of its disposal.

    Deposits of this waste can be reported, anonymously, on the EA’s 24-hour national incident hotline, on 0800 80 70 60.

    Anyone wishing to use materials such as granulated rubber or wood chip as a surface can register an exemption for free www.gov.uk/guidance/waste-exemption-u8-using-waste-for-a-specified-purpose

    Do you have an arena surface made from plastic granulate? If so H&H would like to hear from you, in confidence. Please email lucy.elder@ti-media.com

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