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Results of the meeting of the Environmental Label Jury in December 2023

Die Jury Umweltzeichen auf ihrer Wintersitzung

The Environmental Label Jury agreed on the criteria for two new ecolabels at its winter meeting:

Organic growing media and potting soils (DE-UZ 234)

The new ecolabel may be awarded to organic growing media that stands out due to its complete avoidance of peat. Peat has been used as a raw material in this sector for decades because it has very good characteristics for the production of growing media suitable for the cultivation of plants. However, the use of peat can have negative effects on the environment. As it takes a very long time for peatlands to form on moors, peat is considered a non-renewable raw material and the carbon stored in the peat is emitted as CO2 when it is used. In order to protect the climate, it is necessary to retain the carbon stored in the peat. The conservation or renaturation of moors also makes an important contribution to promoting biodiversity. Therefore, it is necessary for the peat in the growing media to be replaced by renewable raw materials, also called “peat substitutes”.

Peat-free growing media are usually a mix of several different peat substitutes because the desired quality parameters can only be achieved by developing a suitable combination of different raw materials. Green material compost, wood fibres, bark humus and horticultural coconut products are currently the main materials used in these products. The Blue Angel places requirements on the responsible sourcing of these peat substitutes in accordance with sustainability criteria. If wood fibres are used in the products, the ecolabel requires the use of residual substances to avoid competition with any long-term uses for the wood fibres in e.g. the construction sector. The criteria also state that the wood fibres must be sourced from sustainable forestry. In addition, the criteria focus on social aspects and wastewater disposal when using horticultural coconut products.

Strict pollutant criteria are also placed, for example, on the presence of heavy metals and organic pollutants. Certified growing media must also verify that they have a good fitness for use. This includes having a high plant tolerance, a stable nitrogen content and limits on any impurities in the form of plastic or weed seeds. 

This ecolabel may be used to certify organic growing substances that

  • completely avoid the use of peat,
  • use organic raw materials to promote a circular economy, 
  • aspire to use raw materials in a sustainable and transparent way,
  • and can verify their fitness for use and their compliance with strict pollutant limits.  

Artificial turf systems and sports fields
The new ecolabel may be awarded to artificial turf systems (Part A) and artificial turf sports fields (Part B) that stand out with respect to environmental aspects in comparison to other artificial turf systems and sports fields.

Artificial turf sports fields are often used as an alternative to natural grass fields or pitches in the leisure and sports sectors and are becoming increasingly common due to the fact that, amongst other things, they can be used all year round, are more durable, require less care and maintenance and have lower specific costs per hour of use due to their higher utilisation.

The use of artificial turf can have various effects on the environment and health. In particular, the introduction of microplastics from the artificial turf into the environment has been a much-discussed topic in recent years. This is mainly due to the loss of the infill granules and the impact of the sporting activities, maintenance measures, wind and rain. One important goals of the new ecolabel is thus to reduce the introduction of microplastics into the environment. Although legislation to restrict microplastics was published at the end of October as part of the EU Chemicals Regulation REACH, the ban on placing rubber and plastic materials on the market for use as filling materials for sports fields will only come into force across the EU in 8 years. The Blue Angel will establish appropriate requirements until this legislation comes into force.

Alongside a reduction in plastic emissions, other important goals of the new ecolabel are minimising pollutant emissions into the soil and groundwater and conserving resources by placing requirements on the minimum use (utilisation) of the products as well as on the stability and durability of the artificial turf, promoting the use of post-consumer recycled materials and placing requirements on the ability to dismantle and recycle the artificial turf. In addition, the design, structural integration of the artificial turf sports field and behaviour of the sportspeople using it can also influence the level of any microplastic emissions. Part B places requirements on the use, care and maintenance of the artificial turf sports fields. For example, the sports fields must have a high use efficiency (based on a needs analysis of the hours of use by sportspeople), they must be maintained mechanically without the use of biocides and limits are also placed on the amount of water consumed. 

Explanatory box for PART A 
This artificial turf system complies with the requirements of Part A of UZ 235 and enables the construction of an artificial turf sports field (Part B) certified with UZ 235.

  • Low level of harmful materials
  • Reduced introduction of microplastics into the environment
  • Recyclable and durable 

Explanatory box for PART B 
This artificial turf sports field was constructed using an artificial turf system certified according to UZ 235 Part A and fulfils the criteria for Part B of the UZ 235 ecolabel, edition 2024. 

  • Low level of harmful materials, recyclable and durable artificial turf system
  • Reduced introduction of microplastics into the environment 
  • Mechanical maintenance without the use of biocides 
  • Efficient operation and intensive use

Revision - stoves for wood and particle separators (DE-UZ 212 / 222)

Even if it is carried out in a proper manner, heating with wood causes significantly more air pollutant emissions than other energy sources such as heating oil or natural gas. It can result, therefore, in higher levels of particulate matter (PM) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the air in residential areas – especially if a lot of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are operated at the same time in combination with weather conditions causing inversion. Alongside the previously described fine dust fractions PM10 and PM2.5, ultrafine particles (smaller than 0.1 µm) are also produced when burning wood. Based on current knowledge, it is assumed that these particles have their own negative effect on human health.

The goal of the Blue Angel for stoves is to improve air quality. Using an efficient and controlled combustion process and equipment to reduce the emissions, the aim is to significantly reduce particulate and other flue gas emissions in comparison to conventional stoves. The Blue Angel for stoves also requires manufacturers to determine the particle count based on its own adapted measurement method in order to address, in particular, the number of ultrafine particles. The suitability of this measurement method has now been confirmed in round robin tests carried out as part of a research project and a limit for the particle count in the exhaust gas has now been defined in the revised Basic Award Criteria. 


Other revisions – products made from recycled plastics, household energy meters, garden tools and pipe cleaners

The following ecolabels have also been revised and updated:

  • Products made from recycled plastics (DE-UZ 30a)
  • Household energy meters (DE-UZ 142)
  • Garden tools (DE-UZ 206)
  • Pipe cleaners (DE-UZ 24)

The documents with the revised and new criteria will be finalised over the next few weeks and will be made available on our website (Basic Award Criteria). Manufacturers of particularly environmentally friendly products will be able to submit an application for the label.