Composting and PFAS

A tractor turning and maintaining compost material at a commercial compost site.Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of widely used synthetic chemicals found in many products, including non-stick cookware, commercial household products, cosmetics, food packaging, firefighting foam, and waterproof clothing, carpeting, and furniture. The carbon-fluorine bonds in PFAS compounds never break down in the environment and these compounds are harmful to human health.

PFAS is a known issue in the contact water of commercial composting sites where organic materials like food waste, compostable food packaging, and yard waste are sent. Composting organics has many environmental benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving soil health. When PFAS chemicals reach these sites through the solid waste stream, however, they can then pollute contact water at the site.

Minnesota currently has nine large-scale compost sites permitted to accept food waste (source-separated organics facilities, or SSOM facilities) and more than 115 sites that collect yard waste only.

MPCA studies

MPCA has commissioned three studies to further understand PFAS issues associated with compost sites.

The first study examined PFAS concentrations in contact water at compost sites.

The second study reviewed available literature in an attempt to identify sources of PFAS at compost sites.

The third study examined concentration of PFAS in several paper yard waste bags to determine whether these bags were a significant contributor to the problem.

Staff contact

  • Kayla Walsh, MPCA recycling and organics specialist, 651-757-2796