New EU Rules for “Greener” Chemical and Textile Industry

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission has published new binding Best Available Techniques (BAT) Conclusions that shall apply to representatives of more than 3,000 operators in the European Union and about 15 in the Republic of Serbia, adopted under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) with the aim of reducing harmful impacts from chemical and textile industry.

The European Commission’s Decisions pertaining to waste gases management and treatment in the chemical and to a number of activities in textile industry, were published in December of last year. The conclusions build on coordinated efforts of stakeholders, including representatives of industry, aimed at achieving the agreement on Best Available Techniques (BAT) for the subject industrial sectors.

This move is one more step of the European Commission towards achieving the goal of Zero Pollution aimed at achieving reduction of air, water and soil pollution, and bringing them to levels harmless to human health and the environment. The Zero Pollution ambition is one of the most important items of the European Green Deal to achieve a comprehensive goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The new binding norms aim to increase the level of protection of human health and environment, at the same time strengthening competitiveness of industry.

The Commission’s previous Decision on chemical industry sector, which has been in force since 2016, mainly deals with the production of organic chemicals, polymers and pharmaceutical products that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). New BAT Conclusions (BATC) for this sector address 34 key pollutants emitted from chemical industry sector into the air, and bring stricter emission limit values for volatile organic compounds. Special attention is paid to the so-called CMR substances that have carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproduction effects on human health. In addition to the above, a new management-based approach is being introduced in order to prevent, reduce and quantify diffuse emissions, i.e., emissions from undefined outlets such as equipment leaks. The Commission’s new Decision also defines new emission limit values for VOCs and vinyl chloride monomers (VCMs). These pollutants are emitted during the production of polymers, such as PVC or polyethylene. The new Decision also strengthens monitoring and enforcement measures to control the expected emission reductions from this sector. 

When it comes to textile sector, the changes primarily refer to wet processing of textiles, which includes treatments such as bleaching, dyeing or finishing to give the textile specific properties, such as water repellence. These changes make a part of the European Union’s Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, which aims to create a greener and more competitive textile sector. The new BAT Conclusions (BATC) for textile sector specifically address issues of energy efficiency and resource efficiency (water consumption, chemical consumption, waste generation) that are important for circular economy. They also promote more sustainable industrial production through the substitution of hazardous and harmful chemicals, or those with high environmental impact by introducing the chemical management-based approach.

Conditions prescribed in the integrated permit, including emission limit values (ELVs), are based on Best Available Techniques (BAT) set out in the BAT Conclusions that must be applied within 4 years following the date of their publication in the EU Official Journal for existing installations, while they come into immediate force for the new installations. This obligation is prescribed only for EU Member States, but Serbia, in accordance with the EU accession negotiations, decided that competent authorities will adhere to BAT Conclusions in the process of issuing or revising the integrated permits.

BAT Conclusions for chemical (WGC BATC) and textile industries (TXT BATC) are the 19th, i.e., 20th Commission Implementing Decisions respectively, and can be found on the EU Joint Research Centre in Seville (EIPPCB) webpage.