16/10/23: PFAS Controls Needed Now. Australian Organics Recycling Association

PRESS RELEASE: PFAS Controls Needed Now

UPDATED: Monday 16th of October 2023

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) is calling on the Federal and State Governments to implement PFAS controls now. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals that have gained significant attention due to their potential impacts on human health and the environment. As recently reported in The Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age newspapers, there are considerable and increasing health concerns regarding PFAS in the human body.

Under the current government proposal, only three out of the over 4,000 types of PFAS compounds in existence are to be banned from importation to Australia from 1 July 2025.
This level of PFAS control is simply not going far enough soon enough, Mr Peter Wadewitz OAM, Chair of AORA commented. PFAS are widely used in various consumer and industrial products due to their special properties. They are known for their water and oil repellent characteristics, heat resistance, and non-stick qualities. As a result, PFAS have been used in products like non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, carpets, food packaging, personal care products such as dental floss and shampoo, firefighting foams, and more. However, their widespread use and persistence has raised concerns about their potential long-term effects.
We are seeing some state jurisdictions in Australia implementing PFAS limits in processes such as compost production, Mr Wadewitz noted. PFAS is currently allowed without any government regulation for wide-spread use/application but is then to be regulated by the same governments in end-of-life recycling processes such as composting. The current regulatory approach puts the most established and advanced recycling technology of composting at risk.

Currently, 7.7 million tonnes of organic material is diverted away from landfill every year – the very real risk is that this material will end up back in landfills again. This will result in increased emissions of harmful greenhouse gases and the nutrient value of the organic matter will be lost forever, instead of going to improve our soil health and productivity. This is a direct contradiction to Australia’s stated position of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2030. None of this makes sense to any reasonable person. This outcome is in complete contradiction to all Federal and State government policies requiring the diversion of organic materials away from landfill.

Australia has to implement meaningful and wide-spread PFAS controls now. This issue is not going to go away and trying to manage it from a product end-of-life scenario will not work. Once the PFAS genie is out of the bottle, and it is, placing controls on industry’s such as the Australian organics recycling industry to manage the PFAS issue is irrational and inappropriate. The only way to effectively manage the PFAS issue is to regulate the source, by banning, or at least restricting its use urgently and that is what we need the Federal and State Governments to do, now.

Media Contacts:

Name: John McKewCompany: Australian Organics Recycling AssociationEmail: Phone: 0434711077

PFAS regulations endangering organics recycling sector

October 16 2023: https://wastemanagementreview.com.au/pfas-regulations-endangering-organics-recycling-sector/

Regulation of PFAS levels in compost is putting the organics recycling sector at risk. Peter Wadewitz, Chair of the Australian Organics Recycling Association explains.

Australia must have a robust, sustainable, and commercially viable organics recycling industry. With about half of the nation’s waste stream comprising organics, there is a lot at stake.

If Australia gets organics recycling right, there is a good chance of meeting national and state objectives for waste reduction and recycling, landfill reduction, and carbon reduction, says Peter Wadewitz OAM, Chair of the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA).

If we don’t get it right, we will not achieve those targets.

Peter says there is a real danger that the Australian organics recycling industry is being unreasonably held to account for the low levels of forever chemicals that may be detected in products such as compost, mulches, and soil conditioners.

These chemicals include the broad category referred to as PFAS. Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made fluorinated compounds that have been in commercial use since the 1940s and are abundant in today’s society.

These chemicals are widely used for their resistance to heat, water, and oil. PFAS are found in every Australian household in products used in everyday life including food packaging, carpets, lipstick, mascara, dust, firefighting foam, and many more.

“To state that PFAS is ubiquitous is an understatement. It is present within our own bodies in our blood,” says Peter.

“Once it is present then the genie is already out of the bottle.”

He says it’s important to put PFAS concentrations in compost into a real-world context – both for the public and for regulators.

“PFAS is found everywhere and in everything, that is not in dispute. It is also, and this is really important, not made as a consequence of the composting process nor is it an additive to the process,” Peter says. “PFAS contamination occurs in trace levels within compost because of it being present in the feedstocks that are used to make compost – food scraps, etc.

“With PFAS literally everywhere, there is no way to avoid it being found in trace levels in finished compost products – levels much lower than the levels found in day-to-day products we all use in our homes.”

If that is the case, how can we remove PFAS?

Peter says, in short, you cannot completely remove it from compost, or elsewhere in the environment for that matter. However, what you can do over time is reduce and limit the use of PFAS in everyday products.

Reducing PFAS at the start of the supply chain is something governments around the world are now looking at.

“Restricting the use of PFAS is the only way to reduce its presence in our waste streams because once it is present then the genie is already out of the bottle,” Peter says.“Over regulating PFAS levels within compost is almost absurd. Some Australian jurisdictions are contemplating allowable levels of PFAS in compost as low as one part per billion (1 ppb), which is not possible.

“This is conceivably much lower levels than currently exist within our own bodies and certainly within many of the products we regularly use. When did compost become the villain? It’s not and should not be considered as such.”

AORA has a very pragmatic and rational view about the PFAS issue: restrict or ban the use of the compound – don’t over-regulate the Australian organics recycling industry. Peter says to do so, would have adverse and far-reaching consequences including increased volumes of food and organic waste streams returning to landfill which directly contradicts Federal and State Government objectives of reaching net zero emissions targets.

“If we want a successful circular economy and the benefits this can bring, economically and environmentally, we must have a robust, sustainable, and commercially viable organics recycling industry,” Peter says. “We cannot allow over-zealous regulation to prevent that.”

For more information, visit: www.aora.org.au