The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF)
, Raleigh, North Carolina, board of directors has identified a high-priority research topic in the area of managing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and has issued a request for pre-proposals (RFP) on the topic to support the long-term needs and strategic direction of the solid waste industry.
Residential recycling is an integral component of an integrated solid waste management system, but there are still knowledge gaps revolving around this aspect of waste management. Recycling is significantly affected by human behavior, which is a driving factor in the recovery of materials and program performance. There is a need to understand how to optimize processing, enhance material recyclability, and develop adequate and durable end markets. Beyond these facets, the demonstration of the overall value of residential recycling in terms of sustainability and economics is not well documented.
PFAS are a group of compounds that are manmade and are commonly used in industrial processes and consumer products such as food packaging, fire-fighting foams, metal plating, outdoor gear, popcorn bags, food wrappers, facial moisturizers, mattresses, carpeting and cookware. Despite the widespread use of PFAS in everyday products, there are still significant knowledge gaps associated with the management of these compounds. Although consumer and industrial products have been identified as containing PFAS, there have been limited studies that focus on the inventory of the specific types of products that contain PFAS which ultimately end up as waste materials, discharged to wastewater treatment plants, or in other potential sinks. As regulations are being developed there needs to be sound science to address the many facets related to the management of PFAS-associated wastes.
For the purposes of this RFP, the foundation says PFAS can include their associated precursors, transformation products and byproducts. At a minimum, the focus should be on the most commonly monitored compounds that have standards or guidance values in place or being developed. Examples include, but are not limited to: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), per- and poly-fluoropolyethers (PFPE), perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), per- and poly-fluorinated carboxylic acids, and GenX.
The management of PFAS-associated wastes can be through conventional pathways such as landfilling, recycling, composting, thermal conversion (i.e., incineration) and anaerobic digestion. Within these management pathways, a focus should include, where applicable, liquid (e.g., leachate and gas condensate) and gaseous (e.g., landfill gas) emissions. Groundwater quality associated with these management pathways are also applicable within this RFP. Other compounds of emerging concern (CEC) will not be considered (e.g., pharmaceuticals, hormones and endocrine disruptors). Pre-proposals related to other CEC should be submitted as part of the general RFP.
Research focus areas
Submissions of scientific research pre-proposals related to the management of PFAS are invited in the following areas:
Identification of sources and sinks of PFAS
- identification and estimation of the quantity of PFAS in products and/or waste materials that make up significant sources in the waste streams to landfill (e.g., consumer products, manufacturing residues, wastewater treatment sludge, industrial sludge, paper production and recycling sludges, and
- (e.g., landfill and anaerobic digester gas) and their variability across the solid waste industry
- management practices for reducing PFAS in landfill leachate
- estimating the significance of landfill emissions relative to other significant PFAS sources
Development of analytical techniques to detect and quantify PFAS
- rapid field tests or enhanced laboratory methods to detect (screen) and quantify PFAS (existing techniques are time-consuming and complex) in leachate and landfill gas
- applicability of existing leaching methods to adequately simulate the mobility of PFAS from associated consumer/industrial products within landfills
Fate and transport in solid waste management environments
- conditions that impact the mobility of PFAS from consumer/industrial products to liquid and gaseous phases (e.g., pH, pressure, temperature, age of waste)
- stabilization methods to minimize the transport of PFAS compounds to leachate
- on-site approaches to remove PFAS from liquid and gaseous emissions (approaches should also include the management of reject streams, where applicable)
- treatability of leachate-containing PFAS at wastewater treatment plants (including scalability, costs and residual management considerations)
Lifecycle and economic assessment
- cost implications of PFAS management (solids, liquids and air)
- demonstration of preferred management pathways that are based on reducing potential environmental burdens
Pre-proposals submitted in response to this RFP should consider the focus areas noted herein. Projects and research previously funded by the foundation can be viewed on its website. Previously awarded grants have ranged from $15,000 to over $500,000 with the average grant amount in recent years being $160,000. Typical project durations are about 2 years. Research proposals in excess of $300,000 or longer than 3 years should provide sufficient detail to justify a larger budget or duration.
The submittal deadline for this RFP is 5 pm EST on May 1. The full RFP can be downloaded at www.erefdn.org.