PFAS ban: Differentiating instead of generalising


The EU is planning a ban on around 10,000 substances in the PFAS class – with potentially drastic consequences not only for service providers such as HÜNI+CO, but also for technological progress and thus for Germany as a business location. Instead of a blanket ban, we are therefore calling for a differentiated approach to individual substance groups and investment in the research and development of environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions.

The EU’s plan to ban around 10,000 substances from the perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) family has made waves around the world. By the end of the consultations on 25 September 2023, more than 4,400 companies, organisations and private individuals had submitted around 5,600 proposals to the European Chemistry Agency (ECHA) with the aim of significantly restricting the ban. An overwhelming response – usually only a few hundred submissions are received. The comments are currently being analysed in detail by ECHA’s scientific committees and other EU expert bodies. An initial opinion is expected to be issued in March and the final report will be submitted to the European Parliament for discussion at the beginning of next year. A PFAS ban could then come into force as early as 2025.

Our position on PFAS

As a matter of principle, we support proactive environmental protection and therefore also the EU’s efforts to systematically phase out substances that are harmful to the environment and health. On the other hand, as a specialist in highly functional coatings and surface technology, HÜNI+CO processes organic plastics, some of which also belong to the PFAS family of substances.

We therefore have a clear opinion on this – particularly in the interests of our customers – and, like many other companies from a wide range of industries, we take the following position:

1.     PFAS should not be banned across the board, but their individual subgroups should be assessed in a differentiated manner.
2.     Fluoropolymers in particular fulfil all 13 OECD criteria as “Polymers of Low Concern”. This means that they are non-toxic, insoluble in water, non-mobile and non-bioaccumulative and therefore pose no risk to humans or the environment.
3.     Fluoropolymers are used in many branches of industry and sectors due to their unique properties. They often fulfil indispensable functions in products, for example in medicine, electronics or as a component of highly specific coatings, for example for pipelines and pumps in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
4.     Without fluoropolymers, the EU will not achieve its climate and sustainability goals. This is because they are indispensable in the development of innovative future technologies such as electromobility, battery technology, wind energy and hydrogen technology.
5.     Numerous substances from the group of fluoropolymers and others cannot be replaced, and there are no viable alternatives available according to the current state of research.
6.     A blanket ban therefore threatens technical progress and thus the future of (not only) Germany as an industrial location.

Once again: differentiating does not mean trivialising. But a sense of proportion is needed here. In our view, it is important to encourage companies to research and implement sustainable alternatives. This requires time (i.e. appropriate transition periods), investment in research and development and other incentives.

And of course, as a purchaser and processor of chemical products containing PFAS and other substances, we also have a responsibility. And therefore, in close dialogue with our suppliers. Together with the manufacturers of our coatings and, of course, our customers, we are already working on assessing potential risks, developing environmentally friendly and sustainable variants and innovative alternatives to our PFAS-based non-stick coatings, anti-friction coatings and anti-corrosion coatings. And we use particularly durable coatings with the aim of optimising the eco-balance of our coatings. For our customers. For a clean environment.

We will continue to monitor developments very closely in the future and get involved. We will keep you up to date here!