Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permits for Solvent emissions

Authorisations for solvent emissions

If you use solvents in your business, you may need a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or your district council in Northern Ireland, or SEPA in Scotland, before you can operate. For example, you may need a permit if you use solvents in:

  • printing
  • surface cleaning metals and other materials
  • coating or laminating materials such as metal, plastic, textiles, paper and wood
  • manufacturing paints, varnishes, inks and adhesives
  • manufacturing pharmaceutical products
  • manufacturing footwear
  • dry cleaning*
  • rubber conversion
  • refining or extracting vegetable oil
  • impregnating wood.

* In Scotland dry cleaners should read the Standard Rules guidance on the SEPA website

SEPA: Standard rules for dry cleaners

What you must do

Comply with your permit

If you have a PPC permit you must comply with the conditions it contains. These will reduce or control your emissions of organic solvents (volatile organic compounds (VOCs)).

Your permit will contain details of limits on your solvent emissions and how and when these must be met. For example, you may choose to follow a solvent reduction scheme and you may have limits imposed on specific substances, or you may have limits associated with your production units, such as 25 grams of organic solvent per pair of shoes manufactured.

Your permit will also specify:

  • any abatement equipment required
  • any monitoring and reporting requirements that you must comply with
  • other measures to control solvent emissions, such as handling and storing materials correctly
  • any controls or limits on releasing solvents to land or to groundwater.

If you have a permit, you must produce a solvent management plan and submit it to the NIEA or your district council in Northern Ireland, or to SEPA in Scotland. The solvent management plan must show your annual solvent consumption and that you comply with the emission limits in your permit. It must include any calculations you make.

If you already have a permit and it doesn't contain conditions controlling your solvent emissions, you must contact SEPA in Scotland or the NIEA or your district council in Northern Ireland.

Contact your environmental regulator

If you don't comply with the conditions in your permit, you could be prosecuted.

Even if you don't need a permit, you should manage your solvent emissions and reduce your solvent use - see the pages in this guideline on: Managing your solvents efficiently and Reducing solvent use in production and cleaning processes.

Your business needs to be aware if you are close to the thresholds for requiring a permit.

PPC Permits

Using harmful substances

There are additional requirements if you use:

  • halogenated VOCs which have been assigned the risk phrase R40 or R68, or the hazard statements H341 or H351
  • VOCs which carry the risk phrases R45, R46, R49, R60 or R61, or the hazard statements H340, H350, H350i, H360D or H360F - all of these have been classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction.

Risk phrases are used to classify dangerous substances. A system of numbers relates to short descriptions that tell you about the substance's dangerous properties. From 2010 to 2015, risk phrases will be replaced by hazard statements. During this period both risk phrases and hazard statements will apply.

You can find out if a solvent has any risk phrases or hazard statements by checking the safety data sheet (SDS) that comes with it. Your supplier must provide you with the SDS under the requirements of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation. If you receive any solvents without an SDS, contact your supplier and ask for it.

HSE: Acronyms and abbreviations

If you use VOCs which carry the risk phrases R45, R46, R49, R60 or R61, or the hazard statements H340, H350, H350i, H360D or H360F, you must replace them as soon as possible with less harmful alternatives.

If it is not possible to replace them you must:

  • contain and control emissions
  • meet very strict emission limits
  • regularly reassess the possibility of replacement.

For further details, read the process guidance note relevant to your business' activities.

Defra: Process guidance notes

Further information

Northern Ireland

NIBusinessInfo: Solvent use responsibilities

HSE: Acronyms and abbreviations


SEPA: Process guidance notes

SEPA: Groundwater protection policy

SEPA: Operator guidance

In this guideline

What are organic solvents

Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permits for Solvent emissions

Why you should monitor your solvent use and emissions

How to monitor your solvent use and emissions

Using your solvent emissions data

Managing your solvents efficiently

Reducing solvent use in production and cleaning processes

Recovering and reusing solvents

Storing and using solvents

Solvent limits in paints and varnishes

Solvent limits in vehicle refinishing products

Solvent emissions environmental legislation

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SEPA - Application forms