Various materials are used in production, each of which has its own typical environmental impacts and potential risks. Materials can be produced from renewable or non-renewable natural resources, production can be very energy- or water-intensive, processes may require harmful substances or chemicals, or they may involve significant environmental risks if the process does not work as planned.In addition, some materials are easier to recycle than others. The production of textiles, plastics and metals, among others, consists of individual process chains, which must be assessed on a case-by-case basis from a life cycle perspective.
Introducing Best Available Techniques (BAT)
Industrial production can benefit from the Best Available Techniques (BAT) to improve the overall environmental performance. The core question of BAT is how to manufacture a product at competitive prices in a resource-efficient manner while minimising waste and emissions to air and water.
The introduction of BAT is promoted on the basis of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED, 2010/75/EU). IED is the main mechanism for regulating industrial emissions in Europe.
The industrial processes falling under the scope of the IED account for about 20% of EU’s total emissions to air, about 20% of emissions to water and about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. The BAT process continuously produces information on the BAT techniques and measures of around 30 industrial sectors and defines binding emission limit values for the whole European industry.
The application of BAT has significantly reduced emissions to air and to some extent also emissions to water and soil. So far, the impacts on resource efficiency, the circular economy and innovation have been clearly smaller.
Environmental systems to support goal-oriented work
Production facilities as well as their environmental management and environmental protection can be systematically developed through environmental management systems. The principles of environmental management systems rely heavily on goal-orientation, managerial commitment, a risk-based approach, life cycle thinking, and continuous monitoring and improvement of environmental impacts.
By implementing an environmental management system, a company commits to continuously improving its environmental performance, identifies the environmental impacts of its products and operations, ensures that its statutory obligations are met, sets environmental objectives and monitors their implementation. The ISO 14000 series and EMAS in Europe provide a strong foundation for the use of the environmental management system.
In addition to environmental systems, industrial actors have a large number of other management systems, such as quality, occupational safety and energy management systems.
The PRTR makes it possible to participate in environmental decision-making
The aim of the European PRTR (Pollutant Release and Transfer Register) Regulation (EC) No 166/2006 is to improve access to environmental information, thereby contributing to preventing and reducing pollution, informing policy makers and facilitating public participation in environmental decision-making.
Member States submit operator information annually to the Commission regarding emissions and shipments of waste from each installation if they exceed the thresholds set out in the Regulation. The Commission publishes the information on a public website on behalf of the European Environment Agency.
Information on the largest sources of emissions from Finnish industry can be found in the public FIN-PRTR emission information service at prtr.fi. The purpose of the map service is to provide information on air and water emissions and waste at the plant or municipal level. In Finland, all activities included in the service have an environmental permit, the compliance with which is supervised by the ELY Centres.
Environmental impacts are examined throughout the value chain
In order to assess the overall environmental impacts of industrial activities, it is necessary to observe their entire value chains, as a significant part of the caused by the activity can be indirect, and thus occur outside the production facility.
Examples of indirect environmental impacts in the value chain include the impacts of energy production, the impacts of extraction or processing of raw materials, the impacts of the use of the manufactured product, and decommissioning and recycling. In fact, environmental management systems also require the inclusion and consideration of value chain perspectives and indirect environmental impacts.