'Forever chemicals' in processed waste streams

Dr Kathy Lewin is WRc's Director of Waste & Resources

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To kick off #DirectorsThoughtsThursday, WRc's Waste and Resources Director Dr Kathy Lewin discusses the challenge of PFAS in waste.

Another excellent RWM event at the NEC in September provided an insight into the current and longer-term challenges facing the waste management sector in the UK, including impending limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in waste.

The industry is chasing challenging targets in the drive for ‘net zero’, improving operational sustainability and through that, increasing recycling rates. There have been great advancements in technology, particularly around plastics recycling to recover where possible, or to convert to alternative fuels. However, the cross contamination in plastics recycling will be a challenge both in terms of improved separation and potentially waste classification where the plastics are sourced from waste electronics, cables and other waste streams.

In many cases flame retardant additives, legitimately added at the point of manufacture of many imported products, may have an impact on whether the waste stream is hazardous or not. In some cases they may even be a POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) waste (which require complete destruction). New approaches to screening and assessment may be needed to provide real time data.

The topicality of this issue was highlighted by last week's announcement from the European Council. The EC has just adopted new restrictions on ‘forever chemicals’ in waste read the press release here.

This has been driving research by UK regulators and several industry trade bodies over the past couple of years. They have all been proactive in funding large waste characterisation programmes for some nationally important waste streams. WRc’s Waste Doctors have been working with these organisations to undertake sampling and testing for a large range of waste streams to gather robust evidence to guide future regulation and permitting of these waste streams. The heightened awareness of POPs contamination, in all manner of products, components and treatment residues, requires holistic management to ensure that solving one problem doesn’t create another in another waste stream post treatment. WRc is working hard to develop new approaches to waste evaluation to feed into this piece, working closely with a range of UK and European testing facilities to develop new methods.

Find out more about the work done by WRc's Waste Doctors here.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Dr Kathy Lewin

Director of Waste & Resources

Kathy has over 30 years’ technical consultancy experience specialising in waste characterisation to support resource recovery, waste classification and environmental risk assessment within the circular economy. She is a Chartered Scientist, Chartered Environmentalist, Chartered Resource and Waste Manager and a member if CIWM’s hazardous waste Special Interest Group.

2022-10-27 10:02:00