Paper and cardboard manufacturing pollution prevention

Paper manufacturing and water and sewer discharge


If you pollute water or cause or risk causing environmental damage to water, you may be committing an offence.

Types of paper manufacturing effluent

Your paper and cardboard business may create wastewater or effluent from:

  • process effluent, eg from de-inking operations
  • effluent or other treatment plants
  • boiler operations
  • cooling processes
  • cleaning operations
  • site drainage and stormwater run-off

Your wastewater or run-off may contain:

  • suspended solids
  • oil and fuels
  • heavy metals, such as mercury and cadmium
  • acids and alkalis, which affect the pH of the water
  • solvents
  • softening or brightening agents
  • biocides, eg plant protection chemicals
  • cleaning products

You should handle these substances with care at all stages of processing and manufacture as they can pollute surface waters and groundwater.

Get permission to discharge to water and sewers

You must get a discharge consent or groundwater authorisation from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) before you discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated water to surface waters or groundwater. You may also need consent if you need to construct a new outfall structure for your discharge.

You must comply with the conditions of your consent or authorisation or you may be prosecuted and fined.

You must have permission from NI Water before you discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated water to their drainage system. If you discharge trade effluent to a public foul sewer, you must first have a trade effluent consent or agreement.

Prevent environmental damage

Water pollution can be classed as environmental damage in some circumstances.

You must prevent and clean up environmental damage that occurs from surface or groundwater pollution caused by your business activities. If anyone else reports environmental damage as a result of your activities, your enforcing authority will have to investigate - see pollution incidents and environmental damage - an overview.

Good practice to prevent water pollution

Store hazardous materials, fuel, oil and chemicals safely and in an area where you can contain spills. This may be a legal requirement if you store oil - see storing oil.

You should use an impermeable secondary containment system such as a:

  • bunded area
  • bunded pallet or spill pallet
  • sump pallet
  • bunded storage unit
  • bunded drum store
  • storage cabinet with an integral sump

Your bund and any bunded pallets should be able to contain at least 110 per cent of the volume of the largest tank or 25 per cent of the total volume you are likely to store, whichever is greater.

For information on managing your drainage system, see drainage system requirements to avoid pollution.

Follow the pollution prevention guidelines (PPGs) to avoid causing pollution. This is particularly important if your business is in an area that has vulnerable groundwater.

Prepare a pollution incident response procedure for dealing with spills. Make sure that your staff are familiar with the procedure and know how to implement it - see pollution incident prevention at paper and cardboard production sites.