Zero Waste Washington conducts research in order to demonstrate needed changes and spur further action.

Here are some of our recent research projects.

PFAS in compost

Zero Waste Washington partnered with a research team at Purdue University to research toxic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in commercial compost samples from Washington, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and North Carolina. This study demonstrated that our commercial composts which receive mixed food and yard waste and compostable food serviceware have levels of PFAS that are much higher than those without the compostable food serviceware.

This means that our paper plates, pizza boxes, and french fry sleeves are adding PFAS to our commercial compost. The levels of PFAS are high enough to potentially be a concern because the toxic chemicals may move from compost into stormwater or groundwater when it rains, potentially entering drinking water. For a summary, see Publications page.

Phthalates in Products

Zero Waste Washington is working with partners on a project to identify and reduce the largest sources of phthalates from outdoor products in proximity to two Superfund sites in Puget Sound. Phthalates are a class of chemicals that primarily serve the function of carrying scents or making plastics flexible, transparent, or durable. Unfortunately, they are easily taken up by humans and wildlife, and they are associated with numerous health problems, notably reproductive health.

We are testing outdoor products (such as exterior paint, traffic cones, outdoor signage, etc.) for phthalate concentrations. The goals are to reduce phthalates input into stormwater, improve source control and reduce impacts to humans.