Can we combine a circular economy with a toxic-free environment?

 Glasflaskor med olika syror, kemilabbet.

A transition to a circular economy would mean a reduced pressure on the environment as a larger part of extracted resources would be recycled. However, one of the issues that needs to be addressed to secure safe circular material flows, is the presence of harmful chemicals in recycled products.

A new interdisciplinary project will be analysing the presence of PFAS-chemicals and organic fluorine in paperboard food packages. PFAS-chemicals are used to make the paperboard liquid repellent, but may also be harmful for humans and the environment. Many of the harmful PFAS-types has already been banned, but is still frequently found in food packages, and studies has shown that this might come from recycled materials. As the EU is launching more restrictions on plastic packaging, the demand for paper packages has increased rapidly, and continues to do so. Therefore, there is an urgent need to secure the provision of safe recycled materials, to reduce the demand on the earth´s resources. 

The aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of which packages that contains harmful chemicals, if and at what stage chemicals enters the recycling process and how the amount can be reduced in recycled products. To achieve this, five researchers from different fields will collaborate to combine chemical, political and economic analyses of the problem. The researchers are Ingrid Ericson Jogsten, Ulrika Eriksson and Mattias Bäckström, chemists with expertise in PFAS, CESSS-member Erik Hysing with expertise in environmental policy and Sabina Du Rietz with expertise in circular economics. The research will also be complemented by insights from industry representatives to ensure its practical relevance.

The two year long project has received 4 million SEK in funding from Formas.

Find out more about the project here.