Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals. Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Most UK waste still ends up in landfill, and this includes PFAS-containing products. Studies have shown that the liquid coming from landfills (known as leachate) often contain non-polymer PFAS chemicals. In the USA the total quantities were estimated at 563-638 kg in 2013. To properly break down PFAS chemicals high temperature (1000oC or more) incineration is recommended. Incineration of municipal waste does not necessarily reach these temperatures (min temp. required is 850oC), and the incomplete breakdown could release non-polymer PFAS.Wash and wear of clothing that contains PFAS-based stain-resistant or water repellent finishes release PFAS to the environment. Coatings are thought to lose effectiveness after 20-30 washes. This can include non-polymer PFAS, remnant from production or as a break-down product of side-chain polymers (Lassen et al. 2015). The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes releases PFAS into the environment, both by air and water emissions. PFAS are very hard to remove during water treatment. Industrial emissions are estimated to be the biggest source of these chemicals to the environment.

Soil Association’s new standard bans all PFAS in food packaging

The Soil Association has opened a consultation on new proposed changes to their packaging standard, including new restrictions to PFAS in packaging for organic food products[1].

Soil Association certifies organic systems

Most of us are familiar with the idea of organic farming as a nature-friendly and low chemical-use way of producing food. A UK charity, the Soil Association was one of the founders of the global organic movement, and has been working for over 75 years on food, farming and forestry that is moving away from intensive production and consumption systems towards sustainable practices that are focused on nature[2].

Their wholly-owned subsidiary Soil Association Certification Limited is the largest organic  certification body in the UK[3]. It not only provides organic standards for farming, forestry, food and drink but also for beauty and wellbeing products, and fashion and textiles.

The new packaging standard

Through the consultation the Soil Association aims to understand how its packaging standards can support businesses to:

  • reduce the use of problematic plastics that are damaging or unrecyclable
  • minimise the use of toxic or harmful chemicals in packaging
  • source materials from systems that support sustainable land management.

Towards achieving this the proposed updates include a new standard with restrictions on all PFAS in packaging, a move strongly welcomed by Fidra. The standard specifically lists a range of food contact materials from grease-proof or water-resistant paper to takeaway food containers and popcorn packaging.

PFAS needs to be removed from food and drink packaging

Fidra’s own research into paper and board food packaging found PFAS in most products it tested[4]. We support the proposal put forward by the Soil Association, in particular as not only are there a wide range of alternative products, as indicated by the standard, but the use of PFAS is not always required by the function of the packaging, meaning it is not essential and its use can be avoided[5]. This is reflected in examples of legislation that has banned PFAS in food packaging, for example in Denmark, and several US states[6]. Fidra and other NGOs have a long-standing ask for restrictions on all PFAS in consumer products including food packaging by 2025 in the UK[7].

Respond to the consultation to lead UK action

The Soil Association is the only standard’s setter in the UK to propose a ban on the use of PFAS in food packaging, and Fidra is only aware of 1 other internationally, KRAV in Sweden[8]. By consulting on this standard, the Soil Association aims to understand changes licensees will need to make to comply with it, and how easy any changes will be.

The consultation is open to the public and closes on 22nd September 2023. Consultation responses can be submitted here.






[5] Cousins, I.T. et al (2019) The concept of essential use for determining when uses of PFASs can be phased out. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, 21(11),1803−1815