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New EU environmental standards for food, drink and milk industries

On 4 December 2019, the Commission published the Best Available Technique (BAT) conclusions, for the food, drink and milk (FDM) industry. The new standards stem from a review of the Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Document (BREF) for Food, Drink and Milk Industries. They help national authorities lower the environmental impact of around 2 800 FDM installations. Key environmental issues for the FDM industry mainly consist of water consumption and water pollution as well as air pollution and odour issues.

Untreated wastewater from some sectors, e.g. meat, fish, dairy and vegetable oil production, contains high concentrations of biodegradable materials like fats, oils and greases. Emission levels can be 10–500 times higher than in domestic wastewater. The main air pollutants from FDM processes are dust, volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) and odour. Refrigerants containing ammonia and halogen may be also be released.

The BAT conclusions include BAT-associated emission levels which have the potential, through their translation into emission limits in permits, to drive a sizeable reduction in emissions from the FDM sector. Indicative environmental performance levels have been set for water consumption/wastewater discharge, emissions to water, emissions to air as well as energy consumption for 10 FDM sectors. These include brewing, dairies, fruit & vegetables, grain milling, meat processing, oilseed processing & vegetable oil refining, soft drinks & nectar/juice, starch production, sugar manufacturing and animal feed.

More in particular, for emissions to water, the FDM BAT conclusions focus on techniques to maximise water savings and optimise the use of water, as well as on wastewater treatment techniques used to reduce pollutant concentrations in the effluent. BAT-associated emission levels are set including for chemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, total nitrogen and total phosphorus.

For emissions to air, the BAT conclusions address a number of techniques to reduce the emission of pollutants into air from different FDM sectors. BAT-associated emission levels are set for pollutants including volatile organic compounds and dust. Furthermore, there are important improvements in monitoring emissions to air, in particular measuring various pollutants with a minimum monitoring frequency.

Finally, individual BAT conclusions help national authorities address issues like resource efficiency, waste, the use of harmful substances and refrigerants.

Competent authorities in the Member States have 4 years to verify if permit conditions for existing installations are in line with the new standards, and revise permits if needed. New installations (first permitted after the publication of the BAT conclusions) need to comply with the new requirements immediately.

Consequently, the FDM BAT conclusions play an important role in achieving EU environmental policy goals.

The BAT conclusions for the food, drink and milk industries are the 16th of a series of Commission Implementing Decisions adopted under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). The Industrial Emissions Directive provides a framework for regulating about 50 000 industrial installations across the EU. It requires these installations to hold a permit based on the use of Best Available Techniques.

The BAT reference documents and BAT conclusions are established in an EU-level process including Member States, industry representatives and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). BAT conclusions aim to achieve a high level of protection of the environment as a whole, taking into account economic and technical viability.

Source – European Commission

Verde Environmental Consultants provide expert advisory, monitoring and assessment services from our offices in Wicklow, Cork, Mayo and Galway in soilairwaterwasteenergynoise and ecology disciplines

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