Solvent Emissions Regulations
The purpose of the Solvent Emissions Regulations (SER) is to prevent or reduce the direct and indirect effects of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from organic solvent users. The SER are not limited to releases to air but relate to the control of fugitive releases to all media.
What are organic solvents?
Organic solvents are VOCs used in a wide range of industrial processes to dissolve materials, as cleaning agents and for various other purposes. They are often used in the manufacture of products such as paints, adhesives and inks, and also in the application of these products, for example in coating, printing and cleaning activities.
Many VOCs are harmful to health. They can also undergo chemical reactions causing the formation of ground-level ozone, an air pollutant. High concentrations of ozone can be detrimental to human and animal health. They can also cause damage to building materials, forests, vegetation and crops.
Do the Solvent Emissions Regulations apply?
Solvent emissions are regulated under:
• the Solvent Emissions ( England and Wales ) Regulations 2004;
• the Solvent Emissions Regulations ( Northern Ireland ) 2004; and
• the Solvent Emissions ( Scotland ) Regulations 2004.
These regulations implement the 1999 EU Solvent Emissions Directive (SED) in the UK . Processes regulated under the Solvent Emissions Regulations (SER) are known as SED activities.
The SER are enforced:
• in England and Wales by the Environment Agency and local authorities;
• in Northern Ireland by the Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate and District Councils; and
• in Scotland by SEPA.
If your activities fall within the scope of the SER you must limit your solvent emissions by choosing one of the following methods.
• Meet an emission limit value for VOCs in waste gases and for fugitive emissions. Concentration limits may be imposed on specific substances and collectively for all substances at individual discharge points. The fugitive emissions are controlled by a limit that is set as a percentage of solvent input into the process.
• Meet a total emission limit value for VOCs. A limit related to unit of production is used, for example 25g VOCs released per pair of shoes manufactured.
• Implement a solvent reduction scheme. This allows the operator to meet an equivalent emissions reduction via other means. It involves calculating an annual reference limit and complying with a target emission.
Note: Not all options are available for all activities.
You should carry out appropriate monitoring of VOC emissions, in accordance with your permit or authorisation requirements. If a reduction scheme is not being used, any new VOC abatement equipment you install must immediately meet the requirements of the SER.
If you are regulated by the SER you must submit a Solvent Management Plan to your Environmental Regulator. This must show your annual solvent consumption and demonstrate compliance with emission limits.
There are additional requirements if you use the following harmful substances or preparations:
• halogenated VOCs which have been assigned the risk phrase R40; or
• VOCs that have been classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction, and which carry the risk phrase R45, R46, R49, R60 or R61.
If you use such VOCs, you must either replace them (in the shortest possible time), contain and control them, or limit them. The requirement to replace VOCs with less harmful alternatives does not apply to the use of halogenated VOCs with the risk phrase R40. For further details of what action you should take and the compliance deadlines that apply, you should consult the relevant Process Guidance Note for your activity.
The main purpose of the Council Directive (1999/13/EC), the Solvents Emissions Directive (SED) is to control emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to air, and limits are also set for fugitive emissions, which are defined as releases to air, land and water. An installation falls within the scope of the SED if it carries out an activity listed in Annex I and exceeds an annual solvent consumption threshold defined in Annex IIA of the Directive. It should be noted that the SED contains it's own definition of a volatile organic compound.
Annex I of the Directive identifies 15 categories of activity such as coating and printing processes. The majority of these activities are already regulated under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 90) or the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations. Complete transposition of the SED into Scottish law took place on 28 January 2004 when the Solvent Emission (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (SSI 2004 No 26) came into force.
In general to achieve compliance with the SED operators will have met certain common SED requirements and:
- Meet an Emission Limit Value (ELV) in waste gases (mg/CN m3) and a fugitive ELV (% of solvent use); or
- Meet a total emission limit value; or
- Implement a solvent reduction scheme to reduce emissions from the installation equal to those that would be achieved by meeting the total ELV.
In addition where an operator uses specified risk phrase solvents (R45, R46, R49, R60 or R61) then these will require to be replaced, as far as possible, by less harmful substances.
An amendment was made via the Solvent Emissions (
- “Preparations” are now called “mixtures”;
- The substance R68 has been added to the list of risk phrases;
- H341 – Suspected of causing genetic defects (R68)
- H340 – May cause genetic defects (R46)
- H350 – May cause cancer (R45)
- H350i – May cause cancer by inhalation (R49)
- H351 – Suspected of causing cancer (R40)
- H360D – May damage the unborn child (R61)
- H360F – May damage fertility (R60)
The SED will be absorbed into the new Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) which is due to be transposed into
VOC in Paints Directive 2004/42/EC
Directive 2004/42/EC on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain paints and varnishes and vehicle refinishing products (VOC in Paints Directive) came into force on 30 April 2004. The purpose of the Directive is to reduce emissions into the atmosphere of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from paint and varnishes and vehicle refinishing products, in order to reduce adverse risks to human health and the environment. Member States have to implement the requirements of this new Directive (known as the VOC in paints Directive) by no later than 30 October 2005. The Directive amends SED:
Article 13(1) of the VOC in Paints Directive acts to amend Annex 1 of the SED in the section entitled "vehicle refinishing" by deleting the following activity : "the coating of road vehicles as defined in Directive 70 / 156 / EEC, or part of them, carried out as part of vehicle repair, conservation or decoration outside of manufacturing installations, or" Article 13(2) of the VOC in Paints Directive allows Member States the flexibility to maintain or introduce national measures for the control of emissions from vehicle refinishing activities deleted from the scope of Directive 1999/13/EC.
The Directive was transposed into legislation in 2005 with a further amendment in 2010. The full provisions of the Directive are now in effect and Defra are currently consolidating the regulations.