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News announcement9 December 20205 min read

New EU environmental standards for surface treatment using organic solvents and preservation of wood and wood products with chemicals

New industrial emissions standards will help national authorities to lower the environmental impact of 1200 sites in the EU.

Wood preservation with chemicals is used to protect or improve the resistance of things like telegraph poles and railway sleepers.
Wood preservation with chemicals is used to protect or improve the resistance of things like telegraph poles and railway sleepers.
© Ambartsumian, adobe stock 2020

New industrial emissions standards will help national authorities to lower the environmental impact of the 1200 sites in the EU that conduct surface treatment using organic solvents and wood preservation with chemicals activities.

Surface treatment using organic solvents covers a wide range of processes, from the enamelling of wires thinner than a strand of human hair up to protective coating of large aircrafts and ships.

Wood preservation with chemicals is used to protect or improve the resistance of e.g. telegraph poles, construction wood, and railway sleepers.

These activities are the largest industrial emitters of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in Europe, with about 540,000 tonnes emitted to the air each year.

This represents around 60% of VOC emissions from all activities covered under the Industrial Emissions Directive. VOC emissions are harmful to the environment and can be dangerous to human health.

The new specifications stem from a review of the Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Document (BREF) for these activities – STS BREF. The review's BAT conclusions were published today in the Official Journal of the EU.

The BAT conclusions cover:

  • emission to air, water and soil as well as other environmental performance aspects;
  • standards on how technology is used and on the way in which installations are designed, built, maintained, operated and decommissioned;
  • Monitoring provisions associated with the BAT (monitoring methods and frequency).

Existing installations (those first permitted before the publication of these BAT conclusions) have 4 years to comply with the new standards. New installations (those first permitted after the publication of the BAT conclusions) need to comply immediately with the new requirements.

The BAT conclusions play an important role in contributing to progress towards EU’s zero pollution ambition set out in the European Green Deal, by:

  • Reducing emissions to air and water;
  • Promoting a more sustainable industrial production through the substitution of raw materials that are hazardous, harmful or have a high environmental impact;
  • Contributing to the circular economy by increasing energy, water and raw material efficiency, and by minimising waste generation.

Best available techniques

The BAT conclusions provide national authorities with a sound technical basis to set the conditions under which operating permits are granted to industrial installations.

While the principal aim of these BAT conclusions is to reduce emissions from organic solvent-based treatment and wood preservation activities, including odour and noise, other environmental issues contributing to the circular economy – such as energy efficiency, resource efficiency (water consumption, raw material consumption, waste generation) are also covered.

The conclusions also promote the use of raw materials with a low environmental impact and the substitution of harmful or hazardous substances.

BAT-associated emission levels (BAT-AELs) and associated environmental performance levels (BAT-AEPLs)

The BAT conclusions include BAT-associated emission levels (BAT-AELs) which – by being translated into mandatory emission limits in permits - will drive a sizeable reduction in emissions from the sectors.

Compared to the existing standards, the new BAT conclusions deliver a reinforced level of protection, with particular emphasis on emissions to air and to water as well as on energy and water consumption.

For emissions to air, the BAT conclusions address a number of advanced primary and secondary techniques to reduce them. BAT-AELs are set for pollutants including total volatile organic compounds (TVOC), polycyclic organic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dust and nitrogen oxides. An indicative emission level is set for carbon monoxide.

Important improvements are introduced to the monitoring of emissions to air, in particular regarding the continuous measurement of TVOC (for large emitters) and the measurement of various pollutants with a minimum monitoring frequency.

For water, the BAT conclusions focus on treatment techniques used to reduce the concentration of pollutants in the effluent, as well as on techniques to optimise water consumption. BAT-AELs are set for pollutants and parameters including:

  • total suspended solids;
  • chemical oxygen demand;
  • total organic carbon;
  • metals (e.g. nickel, zinc, total and hexavalent chromium);
  • adsorbable organically bound halogens;
  • fluoride.

Important improvements are also introduced in monitoring of emissions to water and to groundwater.

The BAT conclusions also include BAT-associated environmental performance levels (BAT-AEPLs) for energy (11), water consumption (6) and waste sent off site (3).

Best available techniques – background information

The Industrial Emissions Directive provides a framework for regulating about 52000 industrial installations across the EU. It requires these installations to hold a permit based on the use of BAT. An EU-level process establishes BAT reference documents and BAT conclusions.

The process for the drawing up and review of BAT reference documents and their conclusions is known as the ”Sevilla process” because it is led by the JRC Seville.

It is a highly participatory process based on the collection and collective analysis of actual data from hundreds of plants. For the STS BAT reference document, emission and consumption data at plant level were received from 196 plants and technical discussions took place at two formal and three informal meetings with experts.

The drafting of the BAT conclusions was led by the JRC through its European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau. It has involved experts from industry, EU public authorities, environmental NGOs and other services of the European Commission.

The European Commission adopted these revised BAT conclusions after the positive vote of the representatives of the EU Member States in the Industrial Emissions Directive Article 75 Committee.

The STS BAT conclusions are the 17th BAT conclusions adopted as Commission Implementing Decisions under the Directive. The EIPPCB is currently working on BAT reference documents for:

  • ferrous metals processing;
  • textiles;
  • common waste gas treatment in the chemical sector;
  • slaughterhouses and animal by-products;
  • smitheries and foundries;
  • ceramics.

Review of the Industrial Emissions Directive under the European Green Deal

The European Green Deal, adopted in December 2019, seeks to go way beyond the current policies to control emissions to air, water and soil. It sets out a long-term pathway to 2050, to ensure a climate-neutral, clean and circular economy, optimising waste management and minimising pollution over this timeframe.

The Green Deal commits inter alia to:

  1. Adopting an action plan towards a zero pollution ambition. Separate consultations on the Zero Pollution Action Plan initiative are ongoing.
  2. Revising EU measures to address pollution from large industrial plants, including the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), to:
  • Look at the sectoral scope of the legislation and at how to make it fully consistent with climate, energy and circular economy policies
  • Ensure that industry sectors maintain their role in improving the EU’s environment
  • Increase the take-up by industry and agricultural sectors of novel and proven techniques to create a more sustainable EU economy, at the same time as achieving a cleaner environment that improves public health
  • Improve public access to environmental information.

The scope of the revision is summarised in the IED inception impact assessment; further information is available on the Commission’s webpage on IED review.


Publication date
9 December 2020