Organic solvents are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals that easily vaporise at room temperature and may be harmful if inhaled. They are used in paper manufacturing and produce emissions that can harm the environment and human health. Solvents are present in many adhesives, inks and paper coatings.
You may use solvents in paper coating and finishing processes such as manufacturing wallpaper, manufacturing release papers, laminating paper or impregnating paper (eg with phenol or formaldehyde-based materials).
Check if you need a permit
If you use organic solvents, you may require a pollution prevention and control permit from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or your local district council. If you have a permit you must comply with its conditions, which may require you to reduce or control your solvent emissions.
You will need a permit for solvent emissions if you use:
- more than 5 tonnes per year of a solvent-based product for coating paper
- more than 5 tonnes per year of a solvent-based adhesive
Prevent water pollution from solvents
You must not allow solvents to enter surface water drains, surface waters, the ground or groundwater. This causes pollution and you could be prosecuted.
If you intend to discharge solvents to the foul sewer, you must have an authorisation from NI Water.
Ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) in solvents
You must not use solvents containing ODS.
Solvents which contain F-gases that have a high potential to cause global warming are restricted. You must never allow F-gas solvents to vent directly to the air or be discharged directly into drains.
If you operate equipment that contains F-gas solvents you must ensure the solvents are recovered properly during servicing, maintenance and at the end of the equipment's life. This must be done by someone with the correct qualifications - see solvent cleaning: ODS and F-gas controls.
Good practice for solvent use
- replace solvent-based coatings and adhesives with water-based ones
- use abatement equipment to reduce the environmental impact of VOCs from carrier solvents and solvent-based coatings
- consider installing an integrated heat and VOC recovery system
- assess the quantity of formaldehyde, ammonia and VOCs produced by re-pulping broke (paper formed on the machine that is not usable), the papermaking drying sections and the coating section
- monitor the amount of volatile wood compounds you release with the process steam and use a cost-effective abatement process, eg a cyclone to remove dust that is carried along in the steam
- assess whether the release points at your premises are high enough - contact your local NIEA office or your district council for advice