At the Högbytorp recycling plant in Upplands-Bro, Sweden, almost 50,000 cubic meters of leachate were treated for the removal of PFAS chemicals over a four-month period. Chromafora, an innovative Swedish cleantech company, was behind the treatment project.
The environmental company Ragn-Sells’ Högbytorp recycling plant processes more than 1,700,000 metric tons of waste per year. Among other things, it processes contaminated soil, oily sludge from car washes, organic materials; plastics, paper and wood (PPW) and ash. This waste processing gives rise to leachate which often contains metals, salts and PFAS.
– No matter how good we are at sorting and recycling, there will always be something left over that we don’t want in the circular flow, such as PFAS. Even though there is currently no specific benchmark value for PFAS in leachate to adhere to, we think it’s important to do what we can to reduce any dispersal, says Anders Hagevi, departmental manager at Ragn-Sells in Högbytorp.
Chromafora was engaged by Ragn-Sells between June and September 2022 to separate at least 40 percent of PFAS11 from the leachate. PFAS11 is the total of 11 common PFAS variants, including PFOS and PFOA, and is used as a reference for the occurrence of PFAS in water.*
The system used to treat such major volumes of water in so short a period included charcoal filters and ultrafilters able to process a volume around five times greater than Chromafora’s earlier installations.
– Working with PFAS treatment at Högbytorp is really exciting as it’s one of Sweden’s leading recycling installations. We’re passionate about the environment. We treated around 50,000 cubic meters of leachate for PFAS11, and this involved processing around 500 cubic meters every day throughout the assignment. The goal was a 40 percent reduction in PFAS11, but preliminary results show that the reduction achieved was a little over 45 percent. This means we exceeded our goal by a good margin, something we are naturally proud of, says Johan Seijmer, Chromafora CEO.
PFAS in brief
PFAS are a family of around 5,000 industrially manufactured persistent chemicals that do not break down completely in the environment. The substances, which originate from e.g. firefighting foam, packaging, impregnating agents and skin creams, have now been detected in drinking water and food, and studies have linked them to endocrine disorders, fertility problems and cancer. While it is possible to a certain extent to remove PFAS made up from long carbon chains with the aid of various treatment technologies, smaller molecules – which are more soluble in water – have been more difficult to capture. Chromafora’s patented method also captures these molecules.
* Gränsvärden och riktvärden för PFAS (kemi.se)