ECHA’s PFAS Ban, Could This Affect the UK Polymer Market?

Plastribution's technical team explore the ECHAS's proposed PFAS ban and what this might mean for Plastics processors in the UK.

PFAS chemicals are used in a wide variety of applications from non-stick coatings, low-staining fabrics, and industrial foams. They are also used in all different industry sectors, including textiles, packaging, automotive, aviation, and food contact materials. 

The major concern with PFAS chemicals is their incredible longevity and resistance to degradation, which has led to PFAS being known as “forever chemicals”.

This causes problems with both their release into the environment and health concerns as even small exposures, if repeated can lead to accumulation.

The main difference between the ban on PFAS and other restrictions that have been implemented by the ECHA is that PFAS is a large group of chemicals covering over 10,000 substances.

They appear as a functional constituent in a variety of different applications, which has led to a lot of concern throughout multiple industries, including plastics.

Within the plastics industry, PFAS is used within polymeric processing aids (PPA). in grades lubricated for low friction or wear and some flame-retardant grades.

PPAs can typically be found in low melt index LLDPE, HDPE and especially mLLDPE, which can often suffer from melt fracture due to shear during extrusion. PPAs modify the interface between the extrudate and the hot metal surface of the screw, barrel, and die allowing higher output without causing sharkskin, whilst simultaneously reducing scrap and improving final product quality.

Fluoroelastomers, part of the PFAS group of chemicals, are typically a major component of PPA but we’re seeing both resin suppliers and masterbatch manufacturers actively working to develop PFAS-free PPA.

Currently, HSE in the UK is taking more of a pragmatic approach to PFAS.

Rather than an outright ban in all applications, they are looking to target specific applications where PFAS is likely to be released into the environment. The HSE have released a consultation on banning the use of PFAS in firefighting foams for example.

The vast majority of our customers will have nothing to worry about in terms of PFAS chemicals not being used in the grades that they take. As mentioned in this article, unless you are using grades with specific processing aids or lubrication, it is very unlikely that a grade from our materials catalogue will contain PFAS.

If you’re in need of statements to say that materials are PFAS-free, our in-house technical team can typically source this on your behalf, although please bear in mind that this regulation is not yet in force, so these statements may take longer than usual to come through. They will also be happy to provide support if you are looking to move away from materials that contain PFAS.

Still have questions or concerns about new PFAS Legislation?

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Elastribution is Plastribution Group’s distribution business for speciality elastomers and related products.

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