Paper and cardboard manufacturing environmental regulation
Your paper and cardboard production business may need a permit, licence, authorisation or exemption to prevent your activities from causing pollution or harming human health. The paper and cardboard industry includes paper and paperboard manufacturers, and businesses that produce paper and paperboard products. It also includes businesses that carry out finishing activities, such as coating, covering, laminating and embossing paper or cardboard.
Paper and cardboard production businesses can have a number of impacts on the environment, including:
- energy use from equipment and machinery, as well as lighting, heating and cooling
- noise pollution from vehicles, equipment and machinery
- waste disposal such as sludge and old machinery, equipment and containers
- water discharges from effluent and wastewater treatment plant
- water use such as in the production process and for cooling
This guide will help you check if your business needs a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit, waste management licence, registered exemption or other environmental authorisation, such as a trade effluent consent, radioactive substance registration or authorisation or hazardous waste pre-notification.
You can be fined or even sent to prison if you don't have the correct permit, licence, authorisation or exemption.
Paper manufacturing listed activity permits
You must have a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or your district council if you carry out listed activities at an installation or mobile plant. You must ensure that the installation or mobile plant you use to carry out listed activities does not cause pollution.
An installation is a stationary technical unit, such as a self-contained building, permanent structure or fixed plant, used for listed activities.
Mobile plant is equipment that is designed to be, and will be, moved and is used for listed activities. When mobile plant is used on an installation it may become part of the installation activity, and so may be included in the permit of the installation.
Listed activities include industrial and waste activities that have an environmental impact. They are split into three categories - Part A, B and C. Part A permits control a range of environmental impacts, including emissions to air, land and water. Part B and C permits control emissions to air only.
Part A listed activities
Activities at paper and cardboard production sites regulated under Part A include:
- producing pulp from timber or other fibrous materials in industrial plant
- producing paper and board in industrial plant that has a production capacity of more than 20 tonnes per day
- making paper pulp or paper, including activities connected with recycling paper such as de-inking, if the activity may result in the release into water of certain hazardous substances, such as mercury, cadmium and various chlorinated hydrocarbons
Part C listed activities
Activities at paper and cardboard production sites regulated under Part C include using a boiler or furnace with a rated thermal input of 20-50 megawatts.
If you use organic solvents, you may require a PPC permit from NIEA or your district council. If you have a permit you must comply with its conditions, which may require you to reduce or control your solvent emissions - see solvent use responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.
Contact NIEA or your district council for further information about listed activities.
Paper manufacturing waste permits, licences, exemptions and pre-notification
If your business uses, stores, recovers or disposes of waste you must ensure it does not cause pollution. You must check if your waste activities need a permit, licence or exemption from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). You must have the appropriate authorisations in place before you start an activity.
Pollution prevention and control permits for waste activities - when you need one
You must have a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit if your waste activities are classified as listed activities.
Listed waste activities include some waste incineration plants and landfills - see listed activity permits for paper and cardboard producers.
Waste management licences for waste activities - when you need one
You must have a waste management licence if you carry out certain types of waste management activities.
Waste management activities are waste disposal or recovery activities that require a waste management licence. Mobile plant can be used to carry out waste management activities - this is known as waste mobile plant.
Waste exemptions - which activities they cover
You must usually register an exemption from waste management licensing if you carry out an exempt waste management activity. You must comply with the conditions in your registered exemption.
Exempt waste management activities for paper and cardboard production businesses
|Exempt waste management activity||Exemption reference||Registration requirements|
|Burning some waste wood or bark as a fuel in a small appliance in certain cases||Paragraph 5 exemption||Must be registered with NIEA|
|Treating agricultural land with waste bark and wood, pulp from virgin timber, de-inked paper sludge or de-inked paper pulp from paper recycling, for agricultural benefit||Paragraph 9 exemption||Must be registered with NIEA|
|Treating forests, woodlands, park gardens, verges, landscaped areas, sports grounds, recreation grounds, churchyards or cemeteries with waste bark and wood, or pulp from virgin timber, for ecological improvement||Paragraph 9 exemption||Must be registered with NIEA|
|Baling, sorting or shredding up to 3,000 tonnes per week of waste paper or cardboard, for recovery or reuse||Paragraph 12 exemption||Must be registered with NIEA|
|Composting biodegradable waste||Paragraph 13 exemption||Must be registered with NIEA|
|Manufacturing products from waste paper or cardboard, up to 15,000 tonnes used or stored at any one time||Paragraph 15 exemption||Must be registered with NIEA|
|Recovery of waste and returning it to the production process||Paragraph 26 exemption||Must be registered with NIEA|
|Treating waste on the site where it is produced as long as you don't change the physical, chemical or biological nature of the waste, eg baling, compacting, crushing or shredding waste paper or cardboard||Paragraph 27 exemption||No need to register|
|Storing any waste (non-hazardous or hazardous) temporarily on the site where it is produced in a secure place for no longer than 12 months, eg waste solvents, oil, plastic packaging, paper and cardboard, waste electrical and electronic equipment||Paragraph 41 exemption||No need to register |
There are quantity limits for storing hazardous waste
If you are not sure whether your waste management activity is covered by an exemption, contact NIEA for advice.
You must renew your registered exemption either every year or every three years depending on the exemption.
Waste carrier or broker - when you need to register
You can transport waste produced by your own business directly to an authorised waste management site or recycling facility without being registered, unless it is building or demolition waste.
You must register with the NIEA as a waste carrier if you transport:
- construction and demolition waste produced by your own business
- any waste produced by another business
Hazardous waste - when you need to pre-notify the NIEA
You must pre-notify the NIEA at least 72 hours and not more than one month before any hazardous waste leaves your site. You do this by filling in a consignment note.
Paper manufacturing radioactive substances certificates and exemptions
If your business uses radioactive substances you must take care to ensure you do not damage the environment or harm human health. You must minimise the amount of radioactive waste you create and dispose of any radioactive waste safely.
Paper and cardboard producers may have radioactive sources in:
- depth and density meters
- level-detection devices
- smoke-detection devices
Certificates of registration or authorisation - when you need one
You must have a certificate of registration from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) if you keep or use radioactive materials. You must register:
- open or unsealed sources on your premises
- closed or sealed sources on your premises
- mobile apparatus incorporating a sealed radioactive source
- mobile apparatus (open sources) for use in environmental studies
- radioactive packages stored in transit
You must have a certificate of authorisation if you dispose of or accumulate radioactive waste, unless your activities are covered by an exemption order - see managing radioactive substances.
Paper manufacturing water discharge consents and authorisations
If you discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated run-off to surface water or groundwater you could cause water pollution. Surface waters include rivers, reservoirs and canals. Groundwater is all water located below the water table.
You must check if your discharges need a permit, consent or authorisation from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
Your paper and cardboard business may create wastewater or effluent from materials that you store or handle, and processes you use on your site, such as:
- process effluent, eg from deinking operations
- effluent or other treatment plants
- boiler operations
- cooling processes
- cleaning operations
- site drainage and stormwater run-off
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
- 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. If you pollute water, or risk causing environmental damage to water, you may be committing an offence.
You must have a discharge consent if you discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated run-off to surface waters. Find information on the regulation of water discharges.
You must have a groundwater authorisation if you discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated run-off to groundwater. Find guidance on groundwater authorisations.
Paper manufacturing trade effluent consents and agreements
Trade effluent is any liquid waste, other than domestic sewage and uncontaminated surface water, that you discharge from your business premises.
Discharges that your paper and cardboard production business might make to a sewer include:
- trade effluent from industrial processes, eg sludges
- boiler blowdown
- water from cooling processes
- water from washing and cleaning
- water running off from car parking areas
A public foul sewer collects foul water (sewage and trade effluent) only. A surface water sewer collects surface water drainage only. A public combined sewer collects both foul and surface water drainage.
You must dispose of sewage from domestic facilities, eg toilets, basins and kitchens, to either a public foul sewer or to a public combined sewer.
You must dispose of trade effluent to either a public foul sewer or to a public combined sewer.
You must dispose of clean uncontaminated water to either a separate surface water sewer or to a public combined sewer.
Discharges to public sewers - when you need permission
You must get permission from your water and sewerage company before you discharge to their drainage system. If you are a tenant you may need your landlord's permission to connect to a private surface water drain.
Before you release trade effluent into a public sewer you must have a trade effluent consent or enter into a trade effluent agreement with Northern Ireland Water. Once you have a consent you must comply with its conditions - see discharging trade effluent.
You do not need permission to discharge sewage from domestic facilities to the nearest public foul sewer or to a public combined sewer. If you have any concerns about your discharges to sewer, contact Northern Ireland Water.
If your business is in an area where you can't be connected to a public sewer, you may have a septic tank or package treatment plant. However, you will need authorisation from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
Paper manufacturing water use authorisations
The paper industry uses large volumes of water in the production process, including as a fibre carrier and as a solvent. You should reuse water within your process wherever possible.
If you take or store surface water or groundwater from any source, you are abstracting or impounding water.
If you abstract or impound surface water or groundwater you can affect the environment and other water users.
Water abstraction licence - when you need one
You must have an abstraction licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) if you abstract more than 20 cubic metres (m³) of water per day from groundwater or surface waters.
If you abstract 20m³ or less of water per day you must:
- be able to demonstrate the volume of water you abstract
- minimise water leaks
- prevent any contamination or pollution
If you abstract between 10m³ and 20m³ of water per day you must also notify NIEA using their application form for an abstraction and impoundment licence. Download an application for a licence to abstract or impound water (DOC, 159K).
Water impoundment licence - when you need one
You can impound water without contacting NIEA as long as your impoundment:
- does not control the water level upstream
- is not associated with a water abstraction
- does not create a difference in height of more than one metre between the upstream and downstream water surfaces
You will need an impoundment licence from NIEA to impound water in all other circumstances.
DfI Rivers consent - when you need it
Paper manufacturing carbon and other air emission authorisations
CO2 and other air emissions from your business' activities can cause air pollution, contribute to climate change and harm human health. You must check if your emissions need a permit, registration or other consent from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or your district council.
Greenhouse gas permit - when you need one
Some energy intensive businesses are required to reduce CO2 emissions and trade allowances under the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). You should check if your business needs a permit under the EU ETS.
Your paper and cardboard installation must have an EU ETS permit if your business:
- produces pulp from timber or other fibrous materials in industrial plant
- produces paper and board in industrial plant that has a production capacity of more than 20 tonnes per day
- carries out combustion installation activities with a rated thermal input exceeding 20 megawatts
See how to meet EU Emissions Trading System requirements.
Furnace or boiler approval - check if you need it
Your district council must approve your plans and specifications before you can use a new furnace (except a domestic furnace), fixed boiler or industrial plant, or if you make changes to an existing furnace. Planning permission or a building warrant is not sufficient. You must be able to operate the furnace continuously without emitting smoke when using the correct type of fuel - see preventing air pollution.
Reduce your energy use
Using energy efficiently and cutting your carbon emissions can benefit the environment and your business, for example by reducing your costs and improving your reputation - see reduce energy use and carbon emissions from paper and cardboard production.