Friday 6 October 2023 

Australia must fast-track and expand PFAS ban 

Australia must urgently fast-track and expand the proposed ban on the use of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and other forever chemicals, according to the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR).

As revealed in the SMH/Age today, there are considerable health concerns about PFAS in the human body, the extent of those dangers having not been immediately revealed by chemical giant, 3M.

WMRR is concerned that under the current government proposal, only three (3) out of the over 4,000 types in existence are to be banned from importation to Australia from 1 July 2025.

WMRR believes this should be expanded to include all types of PFAS and other persistent organic chemicals (POPS) - or ‘forever chemicals’ as they are known - given they do not break down in the environment or the human body.

“The current proposal to phase out just three (3) types of PFAS does not go far enough nor move fast enough,” WMRR Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said. 

“By not banning all types of PFAS now, regulators will simply end up playing ‘whack a mole’ as new variants of the chemical come on the market. Let’s just get it right from the beginning and ban them all now.  

“Australia must also introduce a comprehensive system that supports the ban, including introducing an EU-style labelling scheme for all products that currently contain PFAS and other POPs.   

“The reality is there is currently no program in Australia which requires the identification and labelling of POPs in packaging or any other consumer item, which would allow people to make informed choices about whether they want to have these chemicals in their homes.

“We need to back all this up with a national program that requires manufacturers – both domestic and international – to remove, report and identify hazardous chemicals within the products they produce and supply.

“The waste and resource recovery sector recognises there will be legacy material that we can deal with in a safe manner at our highly engineered containment facilities as we have for years, but it cannot be left to our sector alone to deal with PFAS and POPs at the end of life. 

“Strong action is needed to design them out of Australia now, or risk becoming the global dumping ground given other countries have taken this action years ago. 

“The best outcome is if they are not used in products in the first place.  

“WMRR also calls on all governments to urgently prioritise the PFAS NEMP 3.0 finalisation, which closed for consultation in February 2023.

“Industry and the community both need certainty, and ideally we need it now,” Ms Sloan said.