Did you know that several Member States of the European Union have proposed a general ban on PFAS?
On 5 April 2023, the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) presented a restriction proposal on Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS or PFASs. Spearheaded by several countries, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, the proposal states that the chemical should be massively restricted in Europe. While the substance is already being largely regulated, if this restriction proposal goes through, it will be one of the largest ever on chemical substances in the EU, as PFAS currently represents more than 10 000 substances.
WHAT ARE PFAS?
PFAS are a group of chemicals that have attracted public attention since the 90s and are increasingly the subject of debate in the scientific community. According to ECHA’s PFAS report, the use of the chemical is more and more common and can be found in virtually everything:
- Non-stick cookware
- Cleaning products
- Water-resistant fabrics (for example jackets, tents, umbrellas)
- Stain-resistant coatings used on carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics.
This omnipresence of the chemical is the main reason FEAD, the European Waste Management Association, deems it necessary to conduct a critical review of the study. Indeed, Waste Management is the mirror image of the whole economy. The Waste Management sector is at the center of the Circular Economy because its activities can provide the European Union with the secondary raw materials and energy needed.
FEAD CRITICAL REVIEW
The waste stage is as much a critical part of the life cycle of a substance as any other and that is whether it is in a mixture or in an article. Therefore, its distribution via the supply chain including service-life of articles and waste stage as an emission source with its associated risks should be considered. An understanding of Waste Management and the fate of PFASs in the waste stage is therefore critical. It is crucial in order to understand the impacts on circular economy and life cycle emissions. FEAD’s objective is to deepen the knowledge of PFASs presence in relevant waste streams, and to understand how this could influence current and future Waste Management practices considering continuous updates of the relative legal framework. To do so, a systematic critical review of the scientific literature is being performed in collaboration with the University of Padova, to collect PFASs concentration ranges in waste items categorized within relevant four waste categories: plastic waste; paper and cardboard waste; textile and leather waste; metal waste. The concentrations identified in the critical review will later be compared with waste samples collected by the Waste Management sector provided by different countries to ease the understanding of their impacts on waste management. Further, statistical analysis will be carried out to better interpret the collected data. This critical review, a first of its kind, will allow Member States to have a better overview of the situation, allowing us to put in place measures that better suit each situation instead of a general ban that might ignore the particularities of certain cases.
To present the results of the first part of this critical review, FEAD will be present at ECOMONDO. On the 8 November, we will be presenting the results of our own study and conducting a panel discussion on the issue.