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.

Waste Expectations: Trash Talk with Businesses

Packaging, and especially plastic packaging, has come under closer and closer scrutiny as awareness has increased of the damage done when it gets into the environment either by accident or through littering. 

According to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), 182.6 pieces of plastic/polystyrene are found every 100m (MCS Great British Beach Clean Report, 2018 [1]) on beaches around the UK.  On a smaller scale, in North Berwick where Fidra is based, the same tonnage of waste collected from the town has a volume (in m3) twice that of any of the 5 other school cluster groups in East Lothian. This has been put down to the large amount of takeaway food and drink packaging, especially polystyrene, used and disposed of in the town [2] 

In their desire to do something about this, communities in East Lothian are ready to be part of and lead the change that is needed to tackle the amount of waste that is being generated and the harm that is caused as a result. But what might this look like? 

On Thursday 31st January, local businesses, community groups, representatives from East Lothian Council and national organisations, Resource Efficient Scotland (RES) and Vegware, came together to consider exactly what this could look like in East Lothian, and specifically North Berwick and the immediate surrounding areas.  

The event was hosted at Steampunk Coffee Roasters, and was jointly organised by Steampunk, Archerfield Walled Garden, Fidra, Sustaining North Berwick and Green North Berwick.  The crucial outcome for this event was to ensure that the views of businesses, individuals and organisations where fairly represented. This would allow participants to openly highlight barriers and opportunities for all the stakeholders involved in any initiative around takeaway food and drink packaging, as well as introduce local businesses to the support on offer to small and medium businesses via RES.

Over 30 individuals participated in the event, which ensured that a wide variety of perspectives were represented and heard throughout the discussions. Participants were asked to explore three main topic areas:

  1. Reusable options  
  2. Compostable products and collection 
  3. Community responses and town waste management

Attendees rotated around these three options to allow them to hear case studies from Steampunk Coffee Roasters (reuseable) and Archerfield Walled Garden (compostable) and ensure that they could input their views relating to these options.

Following the event, participants were asked to submit their thoughts and considerations in a survey to allow the organisers to acknowledge what people valued most, their preferred directions for change moving forward, and who specifically would be interested and able to be involved in the organisation and implementation of such initiatives. One suggestion was to form a ‘steering group’, or similar, of interested members to help organise, progress and ensure that relevant stakeholders are considered at all times.   

A summary document of the survey results will be available online on Fidra’s website [3]. If you would like to get in touch about this line of work or the progress of this initiative, please contact   




[2] East Lothian Council Amenities Officer, pers.comm. 



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