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DEME and C-Biotech tackle PFAS pollution

On World Soil Day, DEME Environmental and C-Biotech are pleased to announce their collaboration in a joint venture aimed at addressing PFAS, commonly known as ‘forever chemicals,’ through an innovative nature-based solution that incorporates industrial hemp.

PFAS (synthetic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is a major pollutant worldwide and can be found in hundreds of everyday items such as cosmetics, non-stick pans and firefighting foam.

Caring for the earth is a core activity of DEME Environmental, with its experts specialising in cleaning and remediating polluted soils and breathing new life into contaminated sites, whilepromoting a sustainable and circular economy.C-Biotech, a subsidiary of the family-owned Cordeel Group, develops building materials with a positive impact on the environment.

Dirk Ponnet, General Manager of DEME Environmental, comments: “DEME is already a front runner in utilising sustainable soil remediation techniques. Our work regularly involves historically polluted sites, even some of Europe’s worst hotspots. Techniques include excavation and then treating the material with a wide range of specialised soil remediation techniques. However, sites which have only mild PFAS pollution may not be suitable for this approach.”

“Phytoremediation stands as a proven green technology for soil decontamination, employing a holistic approach that utilises the power of living plants to clean soils of hazardous contaminants. Specific plants possess the ability to extract and break down harmful substances as their roots absorb water and nutrients. Nature cleaning nature!”, says Frederik Verstraete, founder and CEO of C-Biotech.

“Not only does industrial hemp grow astonishingly fast – reaching up to 4 metres in just 90 days – it also absorbs substantial amounts of CO2 throughout its growth cycle.

Both companies see the huge scale of the worldwide PFAS problem and the challenges it presents, and believe the new company is the perfect way to combine our strengths and accelerate remediation times where these ‘forever chemicals’ are present.”

Building upon a successful feasibility study in Zwijndrecht (Belgium), Fytolutions will initially focus on providing phytoremediation services within Belgium and Luxembourg. Operations can be expanded to other countries in the future.DEME Environmental’s expert team will identify PFAS-polluted sites and the new joint venture will design a tailored solution for remediation, which could consist of a combination of phytoremediation and traditional remediation.

Once harvested, the polluted and non-polluted parts of the hemp plants are carefully separated. The leaves containing the PFAS will be responsibly disposed of. Satellites will carefully monitor CO2 capture. It is estimated that 1 ha captures approximately 15 tonnes of CO2.

Dirk Ponnet emphasises: “Western Europe has thousands of sites where light to medium PFAS pollution is present. This is a very cost-effective solution and goes hand in hand with DEME’s other remediation techniques.”

“We are going to clean up the Earth and do it together!” says Frederik Verstraete.