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Tackling the Issues of PFAS Replacement

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In NIRI’s latest whitepaper, we explore the urgent need for PFAS replacement within nonwoven and fibre based products and discover where opportunities exist to achieve this through innovations in nonwoven and materials science.

The nonwovens sector embraces innovation and environmental and social responsibility perhaps more than any other sector. As the EU and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bring in further regulations to restrict the use of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), we face significant challenges – and the pervasiveness of PFAS means these changes will affect industries across the board, from construction to filtration, from medical to food and beverage.

Charting the Path Toward PFAS-Free Solutions

To provide support to industries affected by the recent, and upcoming, sustainability regulatory changes, NIRI has produced a new white paper outlining the issues of PFAS replacement, and exploring potential solutions to help our clients maintain a competitive edge while addressing the business-critical aspects of sustainability and social responsibility. The white paper offers insights into how new material science and fibre innovation, coupled with pragmatic product design decisions, can reduce dependency on PFAS or eliminate it altogether, without compromising performance requirements.


Legislation and Societal Change on the Horizon

‘Forever chemicals’ have been found to pose significant risks. Unintended leakage has led to long-term environmental accumulation, contaminating soil, ground, and surface water, disrupting ecosystems, and impacting the food chain. The propensity of PFAS to bioaccumulate in the body has been linked to chronic diseases and reduced fertility, with exposure linked to kidney, liver, bowel and thyroid diseases and cancers, as well as acute health conditions such as high cholesterol, increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack. As the unconstrained use of PFAS is neither sustainable nor societally acceptable, access to PFAS is becoming increasingly restricted – posing significant and imminent challenges for industrial usage. In 2025, the European Chemical Agency (ECHA)’s recommendation on the restriction of PFAS will pass into law and become part of REACH regulations.  This will mean a total ban on the use of many PFAS above a threshold quantity following an 18-month transition period. In parallel, the US EPA has introduced strategies and programmes to limit human and environmental exposure to PFAS.

The transition away from PFAS is already impacting manufacturers and convertors in the nonwovens sector, as some companies restrict the use of existing stocks to focus on a smaller number of products, leaving some products out of specification and underperforming. In this context, there is an increasingly urgent need to explore options to reduce or eliminate dependency on PFAS and given the ubiquitous nature of PFAS across a whole host of sectors, the commercial and regulatory demand to find PFAS-free approaches cannot be ignored.


Opportunities to Achieve Growth Through Sustainability

Our latest white paper outlines our approach to re-evaluating the design and formulation of products to help companies reduce or eliminate PFAS from their products and processes – an approach that has already been harnessed both internally at NIRI and for our clients to evaluate how to effectively navigate the transition from PFAS while still achieving required product performance. NIRI’s approach asks one significant question: how can we influence the bulk performance of the product through intelligent design, rather than relying entirely on surface coatings?

The team at NIRI identifies the transition away from PFAS as an opportunity – both to ensure new developments are compatible with circular economy approaches, and as a route to re-evaluating and upgrading designs for future-proof products and greater sustainability. With growing customer awareness of social responsibility, companies who respond to the PFAS-free challenge ahead of regulatory deadlines can be ideally positioned to increase market share through premium brand positioning.

Tackling the transition to PFAS-Free products

Tackling the PFAS issue is just one example of the many sustainability challenges NIRI is helping to address, as a world-class innovation and product development consultancy of sustainable materials, fibres, nonwovens, and their associated products. With industry-leading expertise and full prototyping and analytical capability, NIRI accelerates innovation, develops commercially viable products, identifies new market opportunities, and provides world-class scientific advisory services for clients from start-ups to multinational organisations.

Access the whitepaper for free on the link below, and if you have any questions relating to its content or need support with PFAS alternatives for your organisation, please get in touch via the Contact page.