PFAS in waste residuals from Swedish incineration plants

Incineration is the dominant treatment for residual waste in Sweden. It is desirable to reach complete thermal oxidation of chemical substances in the incineration process to destroy toxic substances contained in waste. Otherwise, there is a risk of toxic substances being released into the environment through incineration residuals. This project has investigated to which extent Swedish waste incineration plants emit PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) via bottom ash, fly ash and condensate water. 

Of 38 incineration plants in Sweden, 27 (in total 31 furnaces) joined the project, answered questionnaires about operating parameters, and sampled incineration residuals. Five samples from each matrix, fly ash, bottom ash, or condensate water, were collected during a two-week period to compensate for the variation over time. 

The collected samples of bottom ash, fly ash and condensate were analysed for 27 different PFAS according to a methodology developed by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, based on LC-MS / MS. Out of the 27 incineration plants in this project, five plants had no samples with PFAS-27 concentrations above the analytical limit of detection in any of the matrices. Generally, the results show low concentrations in the sampled matrices from most plants, with a few exceptions. No apparent relationships were found between the analysed concentrations of PFAS in the sampling matrices and the operational data.

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