Will PFAS Destruction or Removal Pave the Way to a PFAS-Free Future?

May 1, 2024   |    8 minute read


PFAS is commanding its share of media attention lately and making waves in Washington D.C. As the industry grapples with how best to handle PFAS-contaminated waste, the debate between PFAS removal and PFAS destruction methods has become even more timely. 

This post navigates the complexities of PFAS management, shedding light on which method emerges as a more sustainable option for waste and recycling management and operations.


Challenges of PFAS for the Waste and Recycling Industry

PFAS, aptly nicknamed forever chemicals, pose a formidable challenge for the waste and recycling industry. Conventional disposal methods fall short of adequately addressing PFAS contamination, perpetuating long-term risks to water, soil, human health, and even air quality.

But why all the recent attention? 

The EPA just set drinking water standards for PFAS which will be phased in over several years. This news dropped in the same week the agency rolled out its latest interim guidance on how to effectively destroy and dispose of these stubborn man-made chemicals. While this doesn’t directly affect the waste industry, it is a significant milestone that signals more legislation is coming. It may also spell out problems for landfills who currently send leachate to wastewater treatment plants.

With PFAS originating upstream, the waste and recycling industry wants the world to know that they are merely passive receivers of PFAS downstream. They have also been voicing concerns about the hazardous substance label, fearing it might pave the way for hefty lawsuits and cleanup expenses for landfill operators.

According to Waste Dive, “Waste industry groups are still seeking legislative exemption to PFAS hazardous substance designation. The NWRA, SWANA, USCC, and others say the EPA did not go far enough to protect the waste and composting industries from potential Superfund liability.”

No matter how all of this shakes out, one thing is crystal clear – the waste and recycling industry needs to take action now. These latest developments are accelerating timelines and facilities can no longer play the waiting game. They must plan for how they are going to handle these contaminants on their premises.  


What Options Exist for Eradicating PFAS?

So, what technologies are available when a landfill operator uncovers a PFAS issue? 

They may find PFAS removal and disposal methods enticing and some of those options include:

  • Removal options – Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and Foam Fractionation
  • Disposal options – Solidification, Incineration and Deep Well Injection

At first glance, these techniques offer varying degrees of success in reducing PFAS concentrations. However, they come with their own set of drawbacks, such as energy intensiveness, creation of secondary waste streams, high costs, and incomplete elimination of PFAS compounds.

The good news is the emergence of more innovative approaches that focus on complete PFAS destruction rather than disposal. These methods destroy PFAS rather than removal and disposal efforts which do not truly eliminate it from our environment. 

The allure of PFAS destruction lies in its promise of comprehensive and sustainable remediation. Unlike removal methods, destruction leaves no room for PFAS resurgence, offering a definitive solution to the contamination challenge.

Researching, choosing, and implementing a new technology is never easy. Therefore, it is worth looking at the pros and cons of PFAS removal vs. destruction to accurately assess these options.


Pros of PFAS Removal

  • Immediate relief to affected environments.
  • Versatility in addressing different types of PFAS contamination.
  • Selective removal options.
  • Some established technologies are already being used in the industry.
  • Some removal methods can be scaled up to handle large volumes of contaminated water or soil.

Pros of PFAS Destruction

  • Destroy PFAS compounds; mitigating long-term risks of contamination.
  • Versatility in addressing different types of PFAS contamination.
  • High efficiency in breaking down PFAS compounds into benign byproducts with minimal secondary waste generation.
  • Some destruction technologies have been proven in the field and achieved 99% destruction.
  • Potential for energy recovery in select destruction technologies.
  • Applicability across diverse waste streams, including liquids, solids, and soils.

CONS of PFAS Removal

  • PFAS removal can be expensive, particularly for large-scale operations.
  • Removal processes may generate secondary waste or treatment residues that require further management, adding to the overall cost and complexity.
  • Most removal methods have limited effectiveness in completely eliminating PFAS.
  • Removal may cause a greater environmental impact because of the chemicals used.
  • Certain removal processes can be energy-intensive, increasing operational costs and carbon footprint.
  • With the hazardous waste designation, landfills, wastewater treatment facilities and incinerators may no longer be able to receive PFAS streams – causing disposal costs to skyrocket.

CONS of PFAS Destruction

  • While destruction processes generate less secondary waste compared to removal methods, they may still produce treatment residues that require proper management.
  • Regulatory complexities in managing hazardous waste streams.
  • Significant resources may be needed to evaluate destruction tech as they are a newer to market solution.


The Early Adopters Advantage

While landfill operators may be tempted to deal with the PFAS problem with traditional removal techniques, those who evaluate and implement PFAS destruction tech will surely have a competitive advantage. While not every organization is poised to be an early adopter, certainly those early stage destruction customers will reap the benefits. Additionally, those who are ready and able to take on additional PFAS waste due to their on-site destruction capability will not only mitigate risk from regulations

When approaching destruction technology providers, it’s important to understand the ability of the tech to scale to move volume OR higher levels of PFAS. Equally important is the overall costs, risk and benefits. Early adopters have the opportunity to not only reduce risk by putting PFAS destruction in place now, but the additional upside of being able to take in more PFAS laden waste and treat on site, potentially turning it into a new stream of revenue; particularly existing centralized waste treatment facilities. 


About Aclarity 

Aclarity is revolutionizing the method of eradicating the persistent and hazardous "forever chemicals" known as PFAS from our environment. Their PFAS destruction technology introduces a groundbreaking approach that interrupts the continuous cycle of PFAS contamination. Traditionally, efforts to remove and dispose of PFAS have resembled a game of 'pass the parcel,' resulting in PFAS being reintroduced into the environment through landfill disposal, incineration, and deep well injection, thus recontaminating the air, soil, and water. Aclarity's low-energy technology breaks the carbon-fluorine bonds that make PFAS compounds so resilient, effectively terminating the ongoing cycle of PFAS contamination and destroying these chemicals once and for all.



Does either choice deliver a PFAS-free future?

The choice between removal and destruction methods holds profound implications not only for waste and recycling but also for the environment. Plus, all of the recent activity out of D.C. has added an increased sense of urgency to addressing these pressing issues. 

In addition to the increased scrutiny, removal costs are projected to skyrocket in the coming months. And while removal strategies offer partial respite, destruction is the only path to a PFAS-free future. So, the time is now to deal with this thorny issue and destruction is the hands-down solution required to thrive in a demanding regulatory environment while making PFAS a thing of the past.

Nature is better off without PFAS. And so is your business.

Gradient Line

The future of waste management starts now. Destruction beats disposal so we created an on-site solution that puts an end to PFAS for good. When our EOx process meets forever chemicals, the environment is not the only winner. Get a free evaluation for your PFAS destruction needs today.