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SWANA releases report addressing PFAS in waste-to-energy facilities

The association’s report analyzes the destruction of PFAS as municipal solid waste is processed in waste-to-energy facilities.

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The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), based in Silver Spring, Maryland, recently released a report analyzing the destruction of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in waste-to-energy facilities. The report was conducted in response to growing public health concerns associated with the material, the association says.

PFAS are comprised of a group of synthetic chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products dating back to the 1950s. PFAS are found in many consumer products, including stain-resistant carpeting, non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, and cosmetics. When these products are discarded as municipal solid waste (MSW), they present challenges to the MSW management facilities, including WTE facilities, that receive them.

“PFAS is one of the most important regulatory issues facing the solid waste industry,” says David Biderman, SWANA’s executive director and CEO. “This report sheds important light on whether WTE facilities are part of the solution managing MSW that contains PFAS.”

The report primarily examines if waste-to-energy facilities reduce the amount of PFAS in waste.

An EPA report issued in 2020 identified WTE facilities as a potential disposal option for PFAS-containing materials, and EPA Deputy Administrator Carlton Waterhouse discussed PFAS at SWANA’s Landfill Challenges Summit on June 17. 

SWANA says it’s cautiously optimistic regarding the positive role that WTE facilities can play in destroying PFAS in MSW. The thermal destruction of PFAS-containing wastes in high-temperature combustion systems, including WTE facilities, may represent one of the few commercially proven options available for destroying these problematic forever chemicals.