Read the full article by E.A. Crunden (Waste Dive)

“In January of this year, the Michigan city of Ann Arbor announced a grim discovery: traces of a notorious group of toxic chemicals had cropped up in the city’s compost facility. Samples collected by city officials several months earlier had tested positive for 13 types of PFAS.

Levels were low in the compost samples and also in water samples collected from two of the facility’s retention ponds, which yielded 12 types of PFAS. The city shared the results, tested by an independent lab, pointing to PFAS-laden items as the likely culprit. Those include grease-resistant paper and fast food containers, items prohibited by Ann Arbor’s composting program but sometimes placed in bins regardless.

In sharing the data, officials noted there are no national health guidelines in place regarding PFAS in compost, while research around the issue remains limited.

Ann Arbor’s findings weren’t an anomaly; testing in states like North Carolina and Minnesota has also yielded PFAS in organics facilities that accept food waste. But the city’s test results drew some national attention when Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., pointed to them as justification for a proposed federal ban on PFAS in food packaging. And they also led to an uptick in industry attention, according to multiple individuals who work with organics, even though site operator WeCare Denali has not reported any major ramifications stemming from the findings.

PFAS appearing in compost have not sparked major financial or regulatory changes for the sector, but stakeholders have been eyeing more dramatic events unfolding in the wider organics recycling world. Maine, for example, is cracking down on biosolids and food packaging over concerns about contamination, with steep financial implications for the municipalities involved. Other states are eyeing similar measures, particularly in the Northeast.

While organics trade groups are lobbying against what they say is unfair scrutiny that should instead be directed at PFAS manufacturers, they are also working to prepare for an uncertain future around the chemicals. That could potentially impact food scraps and lead to more organics being sent to landfills or incinerators — a trend those in the sector say could hinder climate goals…”