Plastic granulate derived from cable sheathing and recycled waste electricals “marketed as a base material for equestrian surfaces”, poses a risk to horses and riders.
According to an Environment Agency warning, which was specifically for the Yorkshire area, material contained in the plastic granulate can contain Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s), phthalates and lead stearate.
And, the Agency has emphasised to the recycling industry that processes handling the material must be subject to an Environmental Permit.
Many equestrian surfaces use types of shredded plastic in its surface as the material is water-proof, sturdy and also springy, allowing for an easier landing for horses. In Olympic events, silica sand is used but this can be a more expensive option. Often, plastic granules are mixed in with sand.
Other options include rubber granules from the shredding of tyres.
The Agency however has said “there is no legal route available” for the use of plastic granules in equestrian surfaces except in accordance with an Environmental Permit.
Weathering can also cause “leaching of these toxic substances into the wider environment”, potentially causing contamination to land and groundwater, the Agency explained.
It also added that 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.
Environment Agency officer, Greg Deakin stated that efforts to clamp down on granule use is part of efforts to “eliminate all avoidable plastic waste” in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
“We’re 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,” he explained.
Mr Deakin added: “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.”
Plastic granules, which can also be mixed with sand, are a by-product of cable granulation and also other forms of WEEE recycling.
When the cables are granulated, the metal produced is separated from the PVC, usually via an air separation process, and then further separated via a water-based technology, which also removes dust. This can then be loaded into a skip and taken directly to an equestrian area for use on the surface
In its warning, the Agency also reiterated that producers or brokers of plastic granulate “have a legal duty of care” to ensure plastic granulate is disposed of at a permitted facility.