European legislation stipulates treatment method for waste containing PFAS
The European Regulation on POPs (persistent organic pollutants) requires these persistent organic substances to be destroyed or irreversibly transformed by thermal treatment. High-temperature waste incineration is a suitable and mandatory method for treating waste containing high concentrations of highly persistent organic substances such as pesticides, herbicides, PCBs, dioxins and, therefore, PFAS compounds.
The BREF (European reference documents) for Waste Incineration describe the Best Available Technologies to be used for this treatment. The BREF WI has been compiled very carefully by knowledge institutions and scientists and will also be revised every 4 years so that the treatment will always be carried out in the best way, using new insights and new technology where possible. The BREF WI also has to be transposed by the European member states into local legislation. The implementation of this BREF WI will be reflected in the treatment facilities’ environmental permit.
Safe sink for hazardous waste materials
Indaver undertakes the safe treatment of around 800 000 tonnes of industrial and medical waste at its site in Antwerp every year. The hazardous or harmful components are broken down or disposed of at a landfill site so that these substances cannot enter the food or materials chain.
Every year, around 150 000 tonnes of hazardous waste are treated thermally at high temperatures in rotary kilns. 10% of this waste contains PFAS compounds with an average percentage of PFAS of 2.7%. This means that every year Indaver provides a solution to 400 to 450 tonnes of fluoro-organic compounds, or 0.3% of the total volume of waste treated in the rotary kilns. One fifth of the load of organofluoride at the facility comes from Belgian customers, four fifths come from foreign customers, primarily from the Netherlands. Cross-border transport of hazardous waste is very strictly regulated in Europe. The relevant authorities scrutinise every application to ship waste thoroughly on the basis of the best treatment process before giving approval for this waste to be shipped within Europe. Part of the hazardous waste from Flanders undergoes appropriate treatment at foreign facilities.
Processing at a high temperature breaks down PFAS
Waste materials with high PFAS concentrations are incinerated at a high temperature inside Indaver's rotary kilns. This treatment process is described in the BREF WI and is in line with the EU regulation on the destruction of these persistent pollutants. Incineration at a high temperature ensures the irreversible destruction of PFAS compounds in the waste.
The process is meticulously tracked before, during and after the treatment
Indaver applies very strict acceptance and delivery procedures to incoming waste materials. Prior to the treatment, samples of the waste are analysed thoroughly to test its composition and reaction. During delivery, high-fluorine loads are analysed separately to adjust the treatment process optimally to the incoming waste.
Waste materials with high concentrations of PFAS are incinerated in rotary kilns at a high temperature. The PFAS compound is irreversibly broken down into different molecules by the high temperature and the presence of oxygen. The facilities are equipped with very extensive flue gas purification. By means of additives such as lime milk, the remaining fluorides are captured in the flue gases and converted into residual materials such as calcium fluoride, which is harmless. Operators monitor a number of parameters to track the process closely and continuously.
Indaver also ensures the safe and sustainable treatment of residual products from the processing. The residue is further treated and disposed of at a landfill site for hazardous waste. This landfill site is lined with several water-impermeable layers to prevent any long-term impact on the environment.
Process in line with environmental permit
The treatment process is carried out according to the standards and conditions laid down in the environmental permit.
The Indaver site in Antwerp has a separate sewage system so that no process water can ever enter the public sewage system.
Wastewater from the Indaver site in Antwerp is treated in a water purification plant before being discharged. Indaver has had component-specific standards for various PFAS compounds at its disposal for more than 10 years now. The permit conditions are periodically revised. Compliance with the permit conditions are regularly checked by the competent authorities.
The quest for continuous improvement
Indaver has always played its part as an essential link in sustainable waste management. As a waste treatment company, we offer a solution to streams which are released into society and may involve a risk to people and the environment if they enter the environment without due control. We follow new developments closely and make the necessary investments to continually improve our processes.
We are now also cooperating fully with the authorities to further develop the legal framework and standards for the future, based on scientific insights. In this way, we are helping to ensure a clean future.
Inge Baertsoen – Communications Manager - +32 497 970570 – inge.baertsoen(at)indaver.com