Plastic granulate could lead to prosecution and ill health for those in the equine sector

The use of plastic granulate can now be found in many equestrian arenas, horse menagés and tracks. It’s usually offered at a much cheaper rate than clean plastic granules, but all is not what it seems.

The Environment Agency (EA) has urged people in the sector to check whether they use it and warned of ill health, hefty removal fines and even prosecution for non-compliance.

Plastic granulate is made from recycled cable casing and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). When such recycled products come to market, a permit stating use of the material should have been granted, but this is not the case.

Now, findings from the EA show the possible health implications for both riders and horses. ‘Toxic’ organic pollutants, phthalates and lead stearate could harm riders and horses, whilst rain can release harmful pollutants to land and water.

The EA also warned of potential cross-contamination, as “non-plastic elements such as metal fragments and glass” are a very real and serious threat to horses and riders using the surface.

Worse still, research carried out in the US suggests that there is a connection between tyre crumb—similar material found in plastic granulate—and cancer. The study focused on female footballers who played on astro-turf pitches with tyre crumb. Tyre crumb itself is found in many equestrian arenas and tracks and improves the ‘bounciness’ of sand. Whilst conclusive research is ongoing, a dangerous link has been highlighted and riders and horses could be at undue risk.

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

As such, the latest message from the EA is a clear one: “If you’re found to have plastic granulate waste deposited on your land without the appropriate environment permit awarded by the Environment Agency, you could be fined and be liable for the cost of its disposal”. The harsh stance indicates the potential threat plastic granulate is to the equine sector and is a warning not to be dismissed.

If you are approached and offered this material by somebody who does not have an appropriate permit, contact the agency on 03708 506 506 or email

McClarrons’ specialist rural Management Liability product, Rural Protect, offers protection from the costs of regulatory investigation and prosecution, including that of the Environmental Agency. If you would like to discuss Rural Protect or your business’s equestrian insurance more broadly, contact our team at or by calling 01653 697055.

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