PFAS is moving further up the agenda for those working in waste management, as more and more regulations come into effect. Thus, operators and owners need to understand their options before it is too late.
By Leanne Hersey

When it comes to PFAS, (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) or ‘forever chemicals’ as they are known, the waste industry is very much on the front line. In recent years, on the back of growing evidence as to the toxicity of PFAS, regulators have started to take a more proactive approach in trying to manage the problem, with an ever-increasing number of regulations related to PFAS. But what is PFAS, why is it being so heavily regulated and what can we do about it?

What is PFAS?
This group of 14,000 plus human-made “forever” chemicals are present in huge numbers of household goods, ranging from cookware to clothing to cosmetics. Even your favorite food items may be wrapped in PFAS laced packaging. Your contact lenses could be made of nearly pure PFAS. In short, they appear everywhere. Due to the widespread use of these chemicals for decades, they are prevalent in our environment and reside in nearly every person in the U.S. Even small doses can lead to cancer, immune system issues, and many other harmful diseases. Hence, regulators are coming down hard on tackling the issue.

While some of the focus is on trying to stop PFAS at the source, i.e., regulating against use in products—the sheer amount of it ‘out there’ means that waste managers are integral to the solution.


For years, even your favorite fast foods or other packaged foods wrap were likely wrapped in grease resistant PFAS laden packaging, though in February 2024 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that grease-proofing materials PFAS are no longer being sold for use in food packaging in the U.S.
Images provided by Aclarity.

PFAS have become a focal point for regulatory action, particularly by the U.S. EPA. The recognition of PFAS as an “urgent threat” necessitates a comprehensive approach to managing their presence in various products and the environment. The EPA’s commitment is outlined in its PFAS Strategic Roadmap, introduced in October 2021 and detailed in its Second Annual Progress Report released in December 2023. This roadmap outlines the agency’s strategies for addressing PFAS contamination through lifecycle management, pollution prevention, accountability, scientific research, and community protection.
The EPA’s approach to PFAS revolves around five core principles. First, understanding the full lifecycle of PFAS enables the EPA to address the ubiquity of PFAS in products and their environmental pathways. Second, focusing upstream aims at preventing PFAS from entering the environment. Third, holding polluters accountable for PFAS contamination and remediation efforts is crucial. The fourth principle emphasizes science-based decision-making to fill knowledge gaps about PFAS, including their health and ecological risks. Lastly, the EPA seeks to ensure equitable access to solutions for disadvantaged communities.

In 2023, the EPA took several significant steps under the guidance of the PFAS Strategic Roadmap. Initiatives included expanding the National PFAS Testing Strategy to gain comprehensive information on PFAS categories, proposing, and finalizing rules to restrict PFAS usage and enhance transparency through the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), and taking enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act. Notably, the EPA proposed designating two specific PFAS compounds as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA/Superfund), aiming to increase accountability for contamination clean-up.
Looking forward, the EPA plans to finalize the hazardous designation for specific PFAS compounds in 2024, alongside developing policies and proposing new rules to further regulate PFAS under various environmental laws. On April 10, 2024, EPA announced the final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS: PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA (commonly known as GenX Chemicals) and mixtures containing two or more of PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA, and PFBS.


A Massachusetts-based PFAS destruction company, Aclarity, offers its low energy electrochemical oxidation OctaTM system. Offered as a PFAS destruction service, the Octa skids are modular and can scale as flow or PFAS levels increase (or regulations tighten

Opportunities for Improved PFAS Management
The approach to managing PFAS has varied over the years, and as regulations have increased, the window of options has narrowed. Where once it could be buried deep underground or incinerated, these solutions will not satisfy some current and future regulations.

Instead, much of the industry is looking towards onsite PFAS destruction technologies. Getting ahead of potential regulations and being prepared with options for onsite destruction is key to minimizing risk. Eliminating PFAS onsite reduces the need for transportation and the associated costs (removal and disposal simply move the problem around, wasting more resources in the process).

When evaluating PFAS destruction technologies, landfill and waste treatment facility operators should ask these important questions of providers:
• Ask for data of real projects (case studies, white papers, etc.)
• How much destruction is actually occurring?
• Can it destroy short and long chain PFAS?
• What flow rates can it handle?
• Is it batch mode or flow through?
• If regulations or volumes of leachate change, how can it scale?
• Maintenance/Simplicity: Will it require a lot of maintenance?
Are there a lot of consumables we will need to purchase? Does it use a lot of energy?
• Will my facility need to operate it, or can it be done as a service?

Eliminating Risks
PFAS is moving further up the agenda for those working in waste management, as more and more regulations come into effect. The direction of travel is clear, and thus operators and owners need to understand their options before it is too late. Eliminate PFAS onsite and therefore eliminate any downstream risks. | WA

Leanne Hersey serves as Vice President of Marketing at Aclarity, a PFAS destruction technology company based in Massachusetts. Leanne has more than a decade of experience in bringing disruptive B2B technologies to market in industries such as carbon nanotube manufacturing, industrial water treatment, and residential construction. Aclarity’s mission is to destroy PFAS forever. The team develops, deploys, and services full-scale proprietary electrochemical oxidation systems to permanently destroy PFAS chemicals in liquid waste for industrial facilities globally. Leanne can be reached at [email protected] or visit