News & Views

Destroying ‘forever chemicals’… forever: Why we invested in Aclarity

March 4, 2024 | Ginger Rothrock

HG Ventures recently participated in a $16M funding round for Massachusetts startup, Aclarity, a company focused on the destruction of PFAS. The investment expands our portfolio of water startups, and here, senior director Ginger Rothrock outlines our investment rationale.

Ginger Rothrock, Senior Director, HG Ventures

The issue of PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, colloquially referred to as ‘forever chemicals’) is not new, but has increased in awareness as more has been uncovered about their widespread occurrence, growing numbers, and potential impact on public health.

Entrepreneurs are increasingly responding to the challenge of micropollutants, and the technical challenges associated with finding, capturing, and destroying PFAS have captured the minds and resources of many. Earlier this year we increased our investment in Puraffinity, a London-based startup that develops precision technology for the removal of PFAS across water treatment applications. Aclarity, meanwhile, provides a proprietary, cost-effective technology for PFAS destruction.

A growing need

The most widely used solution for PFAS destruction today is incineration. However, government regulations, costly lawsuits, and public pressure are increasingly driving organizations to find solutions for the capture and destruction of PFAS and alternatives to products and processes that use these chemicals.

Destroying hazardous fluorinated compounds in wastewater is top of mind for many organizations, including The Heritage Group and our environmental operating companies. Currently, we manage PFAS-contaminated waste streams at the hazardous incinerator for destruction, but with the growing demand, capacity is an issue, so an effective (and cost-effective) alternative is very attractive.

Aclarity’s best-in-class destruction technology obviates the need for incineration. It centers on a proprietary anode that attracts PFAS in water and breaks down the core carbon-fluorine bond into carbon dioxide, fluorine, and hydrogen fluoride. Once decomposed, the PFAS constituents become inert and easy to manage.

A number of other destruction technology routes are being explored by different companies, but most are still in early development or beginning pilot trials, and do not offer validated total destruction of PFAS compounds. By contrast, Aclarity’s decentralized electrochemical PFAS destruction technology has already been successfully piloted with prominent industry players, and our analysis indicates that the company is well positioned to emerge as a leader in this field: With growing public concern and increasing regulations, the PFAS remediation market is estimated to grow to $6.15 billion by the end of this decade, and Aclarity’s technology lends itself to multiple verticals within this field, including landfill leachate, municipal drinking water and industrial wastewater.

Experienced leadership

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Earlier this month, Julie Bliss, Aclarity CEO, visited The Center, the headquarters of The Heritage Group. She met with the HG Ventures team and leaders across THG and several operating companies.

As with all of our investments, we are backing the leadership team just as much as we are backing the technology itself. CEO and co-founder, Julie Bliss Mullen developed Aclarity’s primary technology as a PhD candidate at UMass, and previously worked in engineering and policy development at the EPA’s Drinking Water Unit. COO Pamela Lynch, meanwhile, has 20 years of experience spanning engineering management, operations, supply chain, quality, and programs; and CSO, Dr. Orren Schneider previously worked as Manager of Water Technology in R&D for American Water.

We are excited to be working with Julie, Pamela, Orren and the wider team, as they apply truly innovative thinking to tackle the serious and growing issue of PFAS.

“HG Ventures has proven to be an invaluable partner in Aclarity’s pursuit to tackle PFAS destruction. Their unwavering support and strategic investment has significantly contributed to our success, making them an exceptional ally in our journey towards environmental sustainability.” – Julie Bliss Mullen, Founder and CEO of Aclarity