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. 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.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).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. 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.
Cop 26 Our Approach - Fidra
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Fidra’s response to the Climate Emergency and Biodiversity Crisis

As an evidence-based organisation, Fidra recognise that the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis are inextricably linked and are already devastating ecosystems and human lives.  We recognise and endorse the findings of the IPCC and IPBES (2019). Urgent action is required to cut global emissions, protect nature, build resilience and prevent resource loss.

Our approach

Fidra’s approach is to deliver practical solutions to specific environmental issues which inspire change. Our projects demonstrate tangible change through collaborative working and a pragmatic approach. Our project-based model focuses on specific niches where we can have a positive impact on the environment. Individual projects act as ‘demonstrators’ that drive direct change whilst achieving broader environmental benefits. We recognise that everyone has a role to play from individuals, communities, and industry, with government leading the way with a clear regulatory framework.

The dual emergencies of climate and biodiversity are complex and require global, national, and local action.  Fidra believes our organisation can be most effective by being practical and solution focused.


  • Fidra’s goal is to have a clear impact whilst being a catalyst for broader change.
  • Fidra aims to promote a holistic view of environmental change, ensuring each of our projects feeds into efforts to address the climate and biodiversity crises.
  • Fidra use the best available science and evidence to identify projects and inform our work.
  • Fidra believes that everyone has a role in seeking solutions to environmental issues from individuals, community, government and industry.
  • Fidra aims to ensure we meet the best possible sustainability standards as an organisation.

Plastic and Chemical Pollution

There is no doubt that plastic waste and chemical pollution, the focus of many of our projects, are part of a complex web of issues perpetuating greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to biodiversity loss.

‘If we pollute the air water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us’ David Suzuki


The majority of plastics and synthetic chemicals are produced by the petrochemicals industry using extracted fossil fuels. The chemicals industry has the highest demand on energy and the third highest CO2 emissions, globally.  It takes vast amounts of energy, water and other natural resources to make everyday products.  As well as a threat to ecosystems under strain from the climate and biodiversity crises, all pollution is also a loss of valuable resources. How we make, use and dispose of everyday products is having a huge impact on the environment. We need to build the resilience of ecosystems by removing the pressures of plastic and chemical pollution, doing so will help nature recover and store more carbon. The world’s oceans provide the largest natural carbon sink for greenhouse gases and plastic pollution continues to create a dangerous legacy.  As it breaks down over hundreds of years, plastic releases powerful greenhouse gases perpetuating the climate emergency. Microplastic pollution finds its way into our seas and harms wildlife exacerbating the biodiversity crisis.

Plastic and chemical pollution must be tackled together with the climate and biodiversity emergencies.

Fidra works to:

  • Support an economic system with environmental sustainability at its heart through our work on a safe circular economy and incorporating the polluter pays principle into our projects.
  • Prevent resource loss and create a fully regenerative and restorative circular economy by building a transparent, well-regulated chemical management system that drives safe materials reuse, designs out chemical pollution and reduces the need for single use products.
  • Build resilience through removing the burdens on the environment of chemical and plastic pollution.
  • Improve data, transparency, monitoring and reporting to ensure local, national and global resources are more effectively managed, through our work on the global pellets supply chain, UK chemical strategy and advocating for a sustainability dashboard for Scottish salmon farms.
  • Promote representative participation in decision making through our citizen engagement project on nurdles and work on PFAS that informs legislation and industry practice.
  • Mobilise investors to focus on green solutions through our leverage with UNPRI.

Current projects

Ending the unnecessary use of chemicals, finding alternatives to single use items, and stopping losses from supply chains prevents pollution and keeps resources in the system.

Preventing Chemical Pollution

To achieve sustainable economic growth Fidra is working with key stakeholders to help ensure that the new UK chemical strategy is robust and provides a regulatory framework that prioritizes health and environmental protections. Fidra is working with retailers and suppliers to remove forever chemicals PFAS from food packaging and calling for legislation to restrict PFAS use.

A Safe Circular Economy

Ending the use of harmful chemicals is essential to building an effective circular economy where products can be repaired, reused, and recycled.  The current use of bisphenols in receipts for example, means recycled paper is contaminated with chemicals that are toxic to reproduction and can be harmful to babies and infants; and the use of chemical flame retardants in mattresses prevents the safe re-purposing and recycling of these products as many contain harmful chemicals that are now banned.

Preventing Plastic Loss

By working to plug the microplastic leaks in plastics supply chains, we are highlighting the vast scale of production that takes place largely out of sight of the consumer. We shine a light on both good and poor practice from production to distribution. The loss of virgin plastic pellets (nurdles) in particular, into the environment is a huge resource waste as they have not even been used once, and they pose a significant threat to wildlife. The information gathered and awareness raised by The Great Nurdle Hunt project is proving useful to organisations and investors pushing for broader change across the petrochemicals industry.

Our work on artificial sports pitches highlights microplastic loss and demonstrates a lack of end-of-life solutions.  We shine a spotlight on what can be done to minimize loss and advocate safer alternatives whilst contributing to the evidence that greater regulation, transparency and accountability is needed to reduce microplastic pollution.

Reducing Environmental Impacts

Our work on Best Fishes (Scottish salmon farming) is highlighting the need for greater transparency from farm to fork.  Fidra’s reports on the use of formaldehyde and polystyrene fish boxes are highlighting issues of chemical pollution, plastic pollution and alternatives to single use packaging. We are calling for accessible, clear information so consumers and businesses can make well informed choices.

Reducing our impact

Fidra aims to be a carbon conscious employer, with a goal of minimising the environmental impact of our own project work.[1] Fidra seeks to monitor the carbon emissions of all travel and energy use and to find out the most suitable and effective way to limit the impact.  Remote working policies enable flexible home working.  Fidra’s office has good public transport links, and staff are encouraged to cycle or walk to work through the provision of storage and showering facilities. Procurement policies follow reduce, reuse, repair and recycle principles.  Procurement of products seeks to limit the use of chemicals with hazardous properties.  Food, drink, and catering seeks to be palm oil free, Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certified, organic, locally produced and vegetarian/vegan.  Food waste is composted and used for Fidra’s wildlife garden.  Kitchen facilities help all staff to reduce personal single use packaging. Our energy suppliers are ‘green’ suppliers.

Fidra aims to continuously learn, improve, and adapt as an environmentally conscious employer

[1] Fidra’s Environmental Sustainability Policy, Jan 2020.