Vt. lawmakers seek ban on compostable products with PFAS

Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 4:55 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A bill introduced at the Vermont Statehouse seeks to ban the sale and distribution of compostable products that contain PFAS, the forever chemicals that are ubiquitous in many household consumer products.

Karl Hammer with Vermont Compost in Montpelier says they want to keep their compost as clean and toxin-free as they can. “We have never allowed any inclusion of compostable plastics in our process,” he said.

Hammer says they aspire to a zero tolerance for contaminants because they sell to many organic-certified farms. But they do allow some products like paper compostables. “We have taken certain kinds of paper, but generally it’s very hard to determine that there is no plastic in a paper product.,” he said. He says unbleached paper towels are generally good but that oil-resistant papers can contain plastics.

A bill introduced in the Vermont Legislature aims to make identifying PFAS a whole lot easier. “Source reduction is a critical step to try to rid ourselves or reduce our risk to public health and safety,” said Rep. Kari Dolan, D-Waitsfield, one of the sponsors of Houe Bill 50.

In the state’s battle against the forever chemical, products marketed as compostable but that contain PFAS levels over 100 parts per million are in the legislature’s crosshairs. When the mandatory compost bill went into effect in 2020, bio-bags for food scraps, compostable containers, and utensils became more widely used. Dolan sees a ban on those products that contain PFAS as double-edged. “It’s a public safety benefit but it is also a consumer products bill as well, in that it looks at the truth in advertising,” she said.

Dolan says a product labeled compostable should lack the presence of toxins. She says hopes the measure will protect the integrity of the state’s compost. She says it’s hard to determine how many products this would apply to because of the chemical’s widespread use, but the impacts of the bill will have to be explored.

Back at Vermont compost, Hammer says even without a ban, they likely still wouldn’t accept compostable plastics, but he says there is some le-way with paper products. “If we were assured they were free of contamination, then yes, we would welcome them,” he said.

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