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VOC directives applicable to the paint and coatings industry

17.06.2011 11:43

In recent years, emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have been discussed extensively. As the issues have not lost any of their weightiness, it is perhaps time to examine briefly the requirements laid down for coating installations in EU directives.

Various legal instruments, such as directives, are applied to reduce VOC emissions from the use of solvents. One of the objectives is to harmonise the national regulations on solvents’ use in the EU states. The following VOC directives are in effect in the EU:


VOC directives in the EU


1.    The VOC Solvent Emission Directive (1999/13/EC), also known as the Installations VOC Directive, applicable to installations and installation components using volatile organic compounds


2.    The Paints Directive (2004/42/EC), or the Products VOC Directive, covering the volatile organic compounds contained in paints and varnishes


VOC directivesThe Installations VOC Directive


Pursuant to the Installations VOC Directive, industrial coating installations must reduce their annual amount of solvent-containing emissions. The solvent-containing emissions include emissions from, for example, solvents contained in thinners, washing solvents, and paints and other coatings. Under the directive, an installation utilising more than a set amount of solvents annually is subject to authorisation or registration.


The requirements of the directive for wood-coating and metal-coating installations are slightly different. A metal-coating installation consuming under five tons of solvents annually is not required to initiate any measures under the directive. In cases where the total consumption of solvents is 5–15 tons, said installation must register with the environmental protection information system. In cases in which the annual consumption of solvents exceeds 15 tons, both the metal-coating and the wood-coating installation must apply for environmental authorisation. An installation coating wood surfaces is not subject to registration, only to authorisation in the cases referred to above.


The threshold values for solvent consumption, presented in the table below, apply to any activity within the scope of the directive. Should these values be exceeded, the installation may invest in clean-up equipment to keep the activity within the allowed limits or, instead, submit an emissions reduction plan. The scheme must allow the operator to reduce its emissions by the amount that clean-up equipment would have cut them in order to comply with the emission limits.


The threshold values for solvent consumption under the VOC Directive:


Consumption of organic solvents (t/a)

Requirement under the VOC Directive

Industrial coating of metal

> 5–15


> 15


Industrial coating of wood

> 15



For the purposes of the reduction scheme, the installation must specify the total quantity of solid substances contained in the paints consumed annually. This amount is multiplied by the coefficient specified in the VOC Directive, to yield the reference value. Then, the reference value is compared with the nominal target value for total emissions. For emissions monitoring and reporting, the installations can apply a solvent management plan as specified in the directive.


Products VOC Directive


While the Installations VOC Directive sets the limits applicable to installations, the Products VOC Directive sets the limits for the use of organic solvents in certain paints and varnishes. Also, the latter directive includes provisions on labelling, related to stating the VOC values on the product packaging. The initial set of limit values under the Products VOC Directive entered into effect at the beginning of 2007, and a stricter, second set on 1 January 2011. After these dates, manufacture of water- or solvent-based paints for use on buildings is allowed only in compliance with the requirements laid down in the directive.


For the purposes of the Products VOC Directive, ‘paints’ refers to paints and varnishes designed for use on fixed building structures, usually coated on the site. Paints for use on buildings are divided into 12 categories in the directive. In addition, the water- and solvent-based products within each subcategory have their own specific maximum amounts of volatile solvents. For example, products intended for movable furniture, or thinners, do not fall within the directive’s scope of application.




METAL: VOC calculator for metal-coating products

WOOD: VOC calculator for wood-coating products

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