Forever is a mighty long time.
While in some cases, things that stand the test of time are lauded and praised, in others, well, it’s detrimental.
There may be nothing more evident of this fact than PFAS. Known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances to the science community, regular citizens know them by their more colloquial name: forever chemicals.
In use since the 1940s, these compounds rose to popularity for the same reason they are now coming under widespread scrutiny – their resilience.
Found in such common items as nonstick pans, carpets, waterproof clothing, cleaning products, and firefighting foam, the prevalence of these chemicals are precisely the thing that brought us to this crossroad.
It’s estimated that roughly 57,000 different sites in the United States are contaminated by PFAS, be it in the soil or water.
And given the name “forever chemicals,” the nature – and longevity – of the problem at hand is particularly pressing, especially given the increased focus placed on preserving the environment.
However, as is always the case, the presence of problems foretells the success of startups, and there are a host of early-stage companies devising ways to make “forever” disappear in seconds.
One such startup, Michigan-based Revive Environmental, has already begun deploying its technology.
With an input of 100,000 gallons of landfill leachate, Revive produces 1,000 gallons of concentrated, brown, PFAS-filled fluid. After being then put through the “PFAS Annihilator,” the end result is deconstructed “forever” chemicals in a matter of seconds.
“We are undoing a very elegantly designed molecule,” Revive Environmental CEO and president David Trueba told the Wall Street Journal. “We take it to a state that’s healthy and safe through mineralization.”
But as we said, there are a host of companies trying to commercialize technologies of this kind, and the jury is still out as to which method is best served to bring to market.
“It’s a bit of a race to the moon,” Ed Ricci, co-founder and CEO of Arizona-based OXbyEL Technologies Inc. said. “Everybody is looking for a better way to skin the cat.”
For what it’s worth, OXbyEL intends to use electrodes to decontaminate groundwater.
While it is unclear which startup will emerge from the pack to dominate the space, it is clear that the opportunity is sizable.
In total, PFAS cleanup is estimated to be a $100-billion industry. Within that, the market for technologies that can destroy PFAS is thought to be roughly $20 billion.
And so it should come as no surprise that there is such hot competition among the startup ranks to commercialize a solution. Or why we here at Angels & Entrepreneurs have taken such note.
Rest assured, this will be an industry worth watching moving forward. Maybe as long as forever.