Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Solvents and adhesives for leather businesses

Solvents and adhesives for the leather finishing process

Organic solvents are used in degreasing, dying, coating and finishing. They are also present in many adhesives.

What you must do

You must not use nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylate in concentrations equal to or higher than 0.1% for leather processing (you are most likely to use these if you degrease sheep skin), except for processes where:

  • there is no release to waste water
  • you pretreat the process water to remove the organic fraction completely before biological waste water treatment.

If you carry out dry cleaning, coating of leather or footwear manufacture check whether you are affected by controls on solvent emissions.

Solvent emissions

You must comply with your duty of care responsibilities when dealing with waste.

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

You may need to deal with the following materials and substances as hazardous/special waste:

  • used solvent
  • solvent containers
  • soiled, solvent-impregnated rags
  • water collected in water and solvent separators.

Hazardous / special waste

Good practice

You may be able to replace solvent-based materials with water-based materials. Although these are not available or appropriate for every application, you should use them when possible.

You should prevent the escape of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the atmosphere. VOCs can result in the formation of ground-level ozone, an air pollutant harmful to human and animal health, as well as plant life. You can reduce the evaporation of solvent to the environment by:

  • storing organic solvents in light coloured containers away from direct sunlight
  • back venting the solvent tank to the tanker during deliveries and fit pressure relief valves on all tanks
  • minimising turbulence during all transfers of organic solvents
  • putting lids on your solvent containers when you are not using them - this reduces solvent loss
  • using 'squeeze' type bottles for transferring solvent onto rags.

Do not mix different waste solvents as this could be dangerous. It also stops you from reclaiming the solvents.


SEE ALSO: Managing solvents, Preventing air pollution

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