PFAS Phase out
The Polyfluorinated Alkyl substances class are also known as PFAS or as “forever chemicals” includes thousands of chemicals that deliver unique functions including water and grease repellency, temperature and chemical resistance, and flame resistance. Common uses include textile treatments, food packaging, personal care, electronics, building materials, cosmetics, firefighting foams, and cookware. The PFAS chemicals share a similar structure that makes them hard to breakdown and are human health toxicants and environmental pollutants. Developing safer alternatives to PFAS is an innovation opportunity.
There are more than 130 policies in different states regulating the use or sale of PFAS-containing items. The US EPA has regulated certain chemicals that are part of this class and is considering restrictions on all PFAS chemicals. Earlier this year the EU published a proposed restriction on all PFAS that would affect a wide range of industries, if adopted.
In textiles and apparel, PFAS chemistry is used as a fabric treatment to impart durable water repellency (DWR), or in its polymeric form – PTFE – to construct breathable waterproof membranes. These functions are mainly relevant in the outdoor performance category, but PFAS is often also used in the active, workwear, and lifestyle categories. Some of the young companies developing PFAS-free DWR solutions include Green Theme Technologies, Beyond Surface Technologies, OSM Shield, and Lamoral Coatings. Established companies such as WL Gore, Huntsman, and Chemours also offer PFAS-free chemistries along with existing PFAS-based solutions.
Breathable waterproof membranes are going through a similar transformation, with brands and consumers looking for a PTFE-free solution. Some of the companies developing PTFE-free breathable waterproof membranes include young companies such as Dimpora and Amphico, as well as established companies such as WL Gore, BenQ, and Sympatex.
In food packaging PFAS chemistry is used as an additive to paper and fiber products to impart moisture and grease resistance. Starting in 2020, BPI, one of the main compostability certifying organizations in US, ceased awarding the compostable certification to products that contain PFAS. Leading brands such as Repurpose had already been working to remove PFAS from their products. Most of the rest of the industry followed over the next couple of years, with many companies using alternatives chemistries such as Solenis. PFAS can also be eliminated from food packaging by changing the design and using laminated or sprayed barrier layers.
In personal care products PFAS is used in pigment dispersants, often for color products that make long-wear claims. It is also used in some hair care products to provide conditioning and in its PTFE form sometimes in dental floss. An alternative PFAS-free pigment dispersant solution was developed by P2 Science. The company has also developed an alternative to the fluorinated acrylates sometimes used in hair care products, with Unilever’s Living Proof brand as one of the adopters.
A common type of household product that uses PFAS based chemistry is non-stick cookware. Even products that are advertised to be “PFOA and PFOS-Free” are still likely to contain other chemicals from the PFAS class. Other applications in the built environment also include products like plumber’s tape, house wraps, and silicone sealants.
PFAS chemicals are also used in the manufacture of electronic components. Much of the silicon semiconductor industry relies on the use of fluorine-containing chemicals to create patterns in silicon wafers. Changing silicon etching chemistry would be harder than the previous examples, but there may be opportunities to reduce the auxiliary use of PFAS chemistry in electronics. PFAS chemistry is also used in products where chemical and fire resistance are essential, such as battery separators.
While the use of PFAS chemistry may be eliminated from apparel, packaging, personal care, and other consumer applications, its use in electronics manufacturing, especially silicone etching, may be more difficult and take longer. In the meantime, for those few cases, we may have to resort to destroying PFAS in the effluent as an acceptable solution. There are also numerous sites around the world where the groundwater has been contaminated by PFAS releases over the years. The groundwater at these sites will also have to be cleaned of PFAS chemicals.
Several methods of PFAS destruction are being developed by young companies, such as UV irradiation (Claros and EcoSpears), and electro-oxidation (OxByEl and Aclarity). There are also companies that focus on separating PFAS leaving the destruction to others (Cyclopure, and Purrafinity).
BioBlack is the New Black
Safer Made joinedRegeneration.VCandThe 22 Fundto invest inNature Coatings, a company that has developed a negative carbon footprint black pigment, that can be used to replace traditional carbon black pigment in textile and printing applications. Nature Coatings’ BioBlackTM dispersion is 100% biobased and has zero poly aromatic hydrocarbons or heavy metals that are often found in the petroleum-based carbon blacks. BioBlackTM is made from FSC-certified wood waste and its economics are comparable with traditional carbon black pigment dispersions. You can read more about the company and funding round here, and about the textile industry's efforts to eliminate carbon black here.
Aether, a synthetic biology company developing peptides to extract lithium in a faster, cheaper, and more sustainable way, raised $49 million.
Alloy Enterprises, a company that makes the production of aluminum parts more efficient, raised $26 million.
Brevel, a company that turns microalgae into an alternative protein for use in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, raised a $18.5 million.
Carbonwave, a company developing advanced biomaterials from seaweed, raised $6 million.
Dalan Animal Health, the developer of a vaccine to protect honey bees, raised $4.5 million.
Debut, a developer of active ingredients for beauty products, raised a $34 million, led by L'Oréal's corporate venture arm.
DePoly, a plastics chemical recycling company, raised a $13.8 million.
Dioxycle, developer of a process to produce ethylene from carbon dioxide emissions, raised $17 million.
Etch, a company using natural gas to produce both hydrogen and solid carbon, raised $7.5 million.
Gradient Comfort, maker of energy efficient window AC that heats and cools, raised $9 million.
Hyfé, a company using food processing wastewater as a feedstocks for biomanufacturing, raised $9 million.
Incredo, (FKA DouxMatok) producer of an ingredient that makes sugar taste sweeter, raised $30 million.
Lalo, a direct-to-consumer baby products startup that sells furniture and bath products, raised $10 million.
Material Evolution, a company that makes low-carbon cement, has raised $19 million.
Matter, developer of a reusable filter for laundry machines that can catch microfibers, raised $10 million.
Magrathea, a company with an electrolytic technology for making carbon-neutral magnesium metal from seawater and brines, raised $10 million.
Mitra Chem, developer of iron-based cathodes for electric vehicle batteries, raised $60 million.
Nitrofix, a company claiming to produce zero-emission ammonia through an electrochemical process, raised $3 million.
Persefoni, a software company that helps companies track and manage their environmental impact, raised $50 million.
Pluton Biosciences, a company identifying beneficial microorganisms and putting them to work in agriculture, raised $16.5 million.
Redwood Materials, a company that recycles and refines lithium-ion batteries and remanufactures anode and cathode components, raised $1 billion.
Refiberd, a recycling company that uses spectroscopy to sort used textiles by material, raised $3.4 million.
Sortera Technologies, a materials sorting company, raised $30.5 million.
Sheertex, accompany making pantyhose using ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, raised $101 million, led by H&M.
TreaTech, a waste water treatment technology company, raised $10 million.
Trove, a company that helps brands like REI, Patagonia, and Lululemon manage their resale activities, raised $30 million.
Uncaged Innovations, a sustainable leather alternative company, raised $2 million.
Unspun, a sustainable fashion brand developing a "3D weaving tech," raised $14 million.
Viome Life Sciences, a company that sells at-home kits that analyze the microbial composition of stool samples and provide food recommendations and supplements, raised $86 million.