Regulatory policy

States Take New PFAS Policy Actions as Waste Industry Awaits Federal Guidance

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As the waste industry waits for new federal guidelines, states are developing regulations and laws on how to handle PFAS in everything from packaging to apparel to fertilizer. The question for waste management companies is how these decisions might affect day-to-day facility operations down the line.

The U.S. EPA is not expected to develop standards for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances until next year, but the waste industry has asked Congress to grant DSM landfills a narrow exemption from liability if certain PFAS are ultimately designated as hazardous substances under the overall environmental response. , Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA.

In May, the National Waste & Recycling Association and the Solid Waste Association of North America presented a joint letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, arguing that CERCLA regulations could have unintended consequences, such as forcing landfills to restrict PFAS-containing waste; could increase material management costs; or could force landfills to pay court costs in PFAS-related lawsuits. MSW landfills are passive recipients of items containing PFAS, and they do not manufacture or otherwise use PFAS, so they should not be held liable for PFAS contamination issues as they consider themselves “part of the long-term solution to managing these compounds,” the letter said.

In the meantime, some of the recent and relevant updates to PFAS management have come from states motivated to reduce residents’ exposure to the substances and take a more proactive approach to chemicals, said Craig Butt, PFAS scientist. at SCIEX. “States are not waiting for the federal government to make a decision. They’re more proactive, so we’re seeing more state-level decisions come online,” he said.

Recent PFAS actions that could impact the waste and recycling industry in the months and years to come include the following.

Treating PFAS in packaging

Several state and local governments, as well as environmental groups, have focused on legislation that would phase out PFAS from consumer goods and food packaging. These bans or restrictions are intended to reduce daily human exposure to chemicals, but they could also have a long-term impact on landfills and the costs associated with managing PFAS at their facilities, said Lauren Tamboer, communications consultant for the Washington State Department. of Ecology.

“This is supposed to be a benefit to waste streams because it reduces the sources of contamination entering those waste streams,” she said. “It’s just a more preventative approach. It’s cheaper than cleaning it up in the environment once the chemicals have already been released. The waste industry also favors this upstream orientation.

While it’s unclear exactly what impact these laws might have on the amount of PFAS disposed of over time, PFAS-related rules could directly affect operating costs, WasteExpo speakers said in May. At the conference, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation estimated that the additional cost of treating PFAS in leachate could impact spill fees by 3% to 14%, based on a national study. Average $54 per ton, Waste360 reported.

Washington is a state that is working to phase out PFAS in packaging as part of a multi-year plan to address PFAS-containing products like clothing, firefighting equipment and cosmetics under the aegis of the state. Safer Products Act. Governor Jay Inslee recently signed HB 1694which expedites the time frame in which the state Department of Ecology must act to restrict many products containing PFAS.

Ecology also published last week the second part of its anticipation report identify packaging alternatives that do not contain PFAS. The research is part of a ongoing process to ban certain types of food packaging containing PFAS once “safer alternatives” have been identified. The process also aims to avoid replacing packaging with what Tamboer calls an “unfortunate alternative” that could contain a different type of chemical that could cause health issues or disposal issues.

Washington sees itself as having an aggressive timeline for its PFAS management plan, but Tamboer said other states will soon pass their own PFAS management laws that could be as stringent or stricter. “These are emerging regulations. There will be a lot of restrictions in the future, and I think the guidance will get better and better,” she said.

In Colorado, the sale of many products with intentionally added PFAS — including food wraps, carpets and children’s products — will be banned starting in 2024 if Governor Jared Polis signs off. HB22-1345. Cosmetics, indoor textile furniture and indoor upholstered furniture containing PFAS would be banned in 2025, and outdoor textile furniture and outdoor upholstered furniture containing PFAS would be banned in 2027, according to the draft law. WE PIRG, a supporter of the bill, sees Colorado’s actions as one step in a larger effort. Emily Rogers, an advocate for PIRG Zero Out Toxics, predicts that other states will pass such bills in the future to “turn off the tap on PFAS contamination across the country.”

As the general public learns more about PFAS and its potential health impacts, more companies are announcing the voluntary elimination of PFAS from packaging. Starbucks announced that it will eliminate PFAS from its packaging in the United States by the end of the year and eliminate it from its global packaging in 2023.

McDonald’s and Burger King previously had committed to removing PFAS from their packaging, but after a recent Consumer Reports report found significant levels of PFAS in restaurant packaging, both companies are facing lawsuits for false advertising and deceptive marketing practices.

Packaging producers will need to watch these lawsuits closely, Butt said, because the results could shape state policies on what types of packaging can be sold in certain states or regulations on how PFAS in certain packaging must be sold. be managed down the line. Consumers should also read company promises carefully to determine exactly what companies are promising when making PFAS-related claims, he added.

“Are they saying they will phase out all PFAS, or just PFOA? Wording matters.”

Other State PFAS Bills to Watch

States are also working on legislation that would more strictly regulate PFAS in drinking water and soil or restrict the disposal of certain types of PFAS:

  • Illinois: Illinois lawmakers passed HB 4818a bill that would ban the incineration of certain EPA-listed materials Inventory of toxic releases that contain PFAS, such as fire-fighting foam. The bill includes exemptions for burning gases in landfills, medical waste incinerators and by-products generated by municipal wastewater treatment facilities, according to state Sen. Christopher Belt, sponsor of the bill. of law, in a statement. The bill was sent to Illinois Governor JB Pritzker for his signature. Pritzker last year vetoed a similar bill, but this year’s version of the bill seeks to clarify that incineration does not include the use of thermal oxidation for pollution control purposes, Belt said.
  • Maine: In April, Governor Janet Mills signed a law banning the land application of biosolids from a wastewater treatment plant and the sale of compost containing the biosolids due to concerns that they contain PFAS. The new law could send more municipal biosolids, which are sometimes used as fertilizer, to landfills in Maine or surrounding states, causing logistics and capacity issues and further complicating landfill leachate treatment processes, officials said. WasteExpo panelists said. Other states could consider their own similar bans, the speakers said.
  • Florida: HB 1475 awaits Governor Ron DeSantis’ signature. The bill requires the state The Department of Environmental Protection is to adopt rules and cleanup targets for PFAS in drinking water, groundwater and soil in some cases, focusing first on PFOA and PFOS. The rule goes into effect if the US EPA does not finalize its standards for PFAS in drinking water, groundwater and soil by January 1, 2025.

Recent EPA moves on PFAS

While experts say states are most likely to pass new and updated PFAS laws and regulations quickly, the US EPA is also making decisions that could soon affect the industry.

Emily Lamond, an environmental lawyer with the law firm Cole Schotz, expects the EPA to stay on track with the goals she announced in her PFAS. road map in October, including its intention to publish more detailed data on PFAS Disposal and Destruction Guide by the end of this year and to update its guidelines by 2023.

The EPA is still expected to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances and set drinking water standards for certain PFAS within the next year – two decisions many of which operators of waste treatment facilities consider it essential in determining how they will need to measure, manage or dispose of items containing PFAS in the future.

The EPA also announced in May that it would add five PFASs to its regional screening and disposal management levels, though Lamond said the designation likely won’t affect landfill operations unless they are already named in a Superfund case.

Last week, the EPA also awarded Virginia Tech $800,000 to develop a low-cost technique to measure hazardous air pollutants and contaminants such as PFAS. The study’s focus on finding cost-effective strategies aims to be accessible to underserved communities experiencing poor air quality, as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to address environmental justice issues, said the EPA said in a press release.