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County and state work towards ban of toxic chemicals in food packaging

A person slicing a pepperoni pizza that's in a pizza box

The movement to eliminate PFAS from food packaging is gaining momentum

In recent months, several companies announced plans to eliminate PFAS (also known as forever chemicals) from their food packaging. McDonald’s is the most recent corporation to announce it would stop using food wrapping treated with PFAS chemicals by 2025. Now other national fast-food companies are considering making the same pledge. 

This follows a national campaign led by chemical safety advocacy groups and local partners in key states across the country, including here in King County, after test results indicated the use of PFAS in packaging for widely sold takeout food items. 

Forever chemicals are highly toxic. They can accumulate in the human body and do not break down in the environment. Despite being linked to several health issues, hundreds of everyday products contain PFAS.

Some state and local governments are moving to phase out toxic chemicals, such as PFAS and phthalates, from food packaging. Washington state has enacted a bill that will eventually phase-out PFAS in food packaging as soon as safer alternatives are available. Hazardous Waste Management Program and other groups in King County are researching the impacts and safer alternative options for retailers.  

Haz Waste Program Policy Liaison, Tristen Pamphlet-Gardner, said that many consumer products and packaging contain chemicals that can escape the product and expose people to toxic chemicals. However, several safer alternatives for food packaging can be used in their place. In February, Washington State Department of Ecology released a report that identifies non-PFAS alternatives for wraps, liners, plates, pizza boxes, and food boats. It included a two-year timeline that would restrict PFAS in these four types of food packaging beginning in 2023. 

“Thankfully, we started work (at Haz Waste Program) looking at the hazards of PFAS in food packaging in 2018. With this latest report from Ecology, we’re excited to start showcasing PFAS alternatives to the public in King County,” said Pamphlet-Gardner. “My hope is that consumers in King County and Washington state will soon see safer food packaging.” 

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