Industrial pollution in Europe

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CSI 055 , INDP 003
Created 29 Nov 2017 Published 22 Feb 2018 Last modified 07 Aug 2018
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This indicator provides an overview of industrial pollution in Europe. This includes the contribution of industry to air and water emissions, soil contamination and waste generation. Trends in industrial pollutant releases to air and water, and industrial transfers of waste are also highlighted.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

A strong, growing and low-carbon industry based on circular material flows is part of the EU Industrial Policy Strategy. The goal, therefore, is to create a growing industrial sector that draws less and less on natural resources, reduces pollutant emissions to air, water and land, and generates decreasing amounts of waste over time. This indicator is a means to track progress towards these overarching aims based on the best available data. The indicator was selected on the basis of best data available for this overarching purpose.

Industry here refers to the production of goods within an economy. Activities included are the energy industry, metal production, cement and lime production, mining and quarrying, the chemical industry, manufacturing, the waste industry (including water and sewage management) and the distribution of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning. The energy used for transport related to these industrial activities and associated emissions is not included.

Economic statistics (gross value added) available from Eurostat are used to track the economic contribution of industry to Europe’s society.

Data reported by large industrial facilities to the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR), on the other hand, are used to track trends in industrial air and water pollution, as well as off-site transfers of waste. The scope of the E-PRTR is limited to certain industrial activities and larger releases of specific air and water pollutants. The Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism Reporting (MMR) inventory contains a more complete account of industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and was, therefore, used instead of the E-PRTR data for this substance.

European countries, as parties to the Convention for Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), also compile pollutant emission inventories that cover key substances, the main human activities and certain natural sources. This indicator uses these data to quantify how relevant industrial emissions to air are in the context of the overall anthropogenic emissions.

Data on the contribution of industrial activities to soil contamination are available from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. These data are not complete but nonetheless help to illustrate the relative contribution of industry to this environmental and health issue.

Waste is defined as 'any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard' in the Waste Directive. Data concerning industrial waste are grouped into two sectors: hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste can pose a risk to health or the environment if not managed and disposed of correctly. The properties of waste that render it hazardous are defined in Annex III of the Waste Directive and include, inter alia, explosive, flammable, toxic and carcinogenic properties.

In addition to the data on off-site transfers of waste from the E-PRTR, this indicator also refers to waste generation statistics made available by Eurostat. Similar to the CLRTAP data on air emissions, these statistics allow for an assessment of the significance of the industrial sector relative to the overall generation of waste.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

This indicator provides an overview of industrial pollution in Europe. This includes the contribution of industry to air and water emissions, soil contamination and waste generation. Trends in industrial pollutant releases to air and water, and industrial transfers of waste are also highlighted.

Units

The units used in this indicator are tonnes of waste transferred per year. The use of indices and percentages means that no other units were used for the indicator.

Policy context and targets

Context description

The EU Industrial Policy Strategy was mentioned above already. It covers a plethora of topics ranging from cyber security to sustainable finance but, importantly, also includes goals for a low-carbon and circular economy.

Accordingly, the aim of the EU policy is to reduce emissions to air, water and land, including measures related to waste, in order to achieve a high level of protection of the environment as a whole.

The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) (EC, 2010) is a key regulatory instrument with which the EU is achieving emission reductions in the industrial sector. It superseded the Industrial Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (IPPCD) by harmonising it with a number of other related regulations and directives such as the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD).

The IED:

  • is designed to take into account the whole environmental performance of an installation;
  • establishes the obligations for competent authorities to grant integrated permits where emission limit values are set based on best available techniques (BAT);
  • enables Member States to be flexible where necessary;
  • requires environmental inspections;
  • enables public participation in the decision-making process.

According to the IED around 50 000 industrial installations are required to operate under a permit (which itself is granted by authorities at the Member State level). Importantly in the context of this indicator, permit conditions including emission limit values must be based on BATs. BAT refers to the most effective, and economically and technically viable methods of operation that reduce emissions and the impact on the environment.

To define BAT, the European Commission organises an exchange of information between Member State experts, industry and environmental organisations. This process results in the production of BAT reference documents (BREFs). Each BREF contains information on the techniques and processes used in a specific industrial sector in the EU, current emission and fuel consumption trends, and techniques to consider for the determination of BATs, as well as emerging techniques. The conclusions on BAT, for each BREF, are subsequently adopted as a legal act so that they are legally binding for the granting of permits. 

An up-to-date list of BREFs and associated binding BAT conclusions containing the emission limit values for a host of different industrial activities can be found on the website of the Joint Research Centre.

Next to the IED, which is very much a regulation attempting to control pollution at source, there are a number of additional pieces of environmental legislation at the European level that address industrial activities including those setting overall emission limits, those requiring reporting of emissions and waste generated, and those stipulating better environmental quality: 

  • The National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD): The aim of this Directive is to limit emissions of acidifying and eutrophying pollutants and ozone precursors in order to improve the protection in the Community of the environment and human health against risks of adverse effects from acidification, soil eutrophication and ground-level ozone. In addition, the Directive aims at moving towards the long-term objectives of not exceeding critical levels and loads, and of effective protection of all people against recognised health risks from air pollution by establishing national emission ceilings, taking the years 2010 and 2020 as benchmarks.
  • The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR): Facilities involved in certain activities and above certain thresholds must report to the E-PRTR on releases of pollutants, off-site transfers of waste and pollutants in wastewater, and releases of pollutants from diffuse sources.
  • The Water Framework Directive (WFD): The purpose of this directive is to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater. The Directive requires Member States to manage their distinct river basins appropriately and report on the status of water in each basin. This includes reporting on pollutant levels originating from industrial processes.
  • The Waste Statistics Regulation (WStatR): The objective of this regulation is to ensure better monitoring of effective implementation of Community policy on waste management with regular, comparable, current and representative data on the generation, recycling, re-use and disposal of waste.

Targets

No target specified.

Related policy documents

Key policy question

How does industry affect the European environment?

Specific policy question

What are the trends in releases to air from industry?

Specific policy question

What are the trends in releases to water from industry?

Specific policy question

Is there a link between soil contamination and industrial activity?

Specific policy question

What are the trends in waste generation from industry?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Available data sources were already covered in the indicator justification above. Data on air pollutants are taken from the CLRTAP for an assessment of the significance of industry and from the E-PRTR to provide an assessment of trends in industrial releases of these pollutants over time.

Key air pollutants to be included in the indicator were chosen based on the following criteria:

Policy criteria:

  • P1: the pollutant must be covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) (EC, 2010)([1])

 

and

Pressures/Impacts criteria:

  • P/I1: more than half of the emissions of the pollutant to air must have occurred within industry for at least one year between 2007 and the year for which the latest data are available, calculated via industry emission data in the E-PRTR, as a percentage of total emissions in national inventories

 

or

  • P/I2: the proportion of the pollutant’s emissions to air within industry must be increasing (E-PRTR industry emissions as a percentage of national inventories, since 2007)

or

  • P/I3: the pollutant must be responsible for the largest aggregate damage-associated costs by industrial facilities (calculated by the EEA (2014) report Costs of air pollution from European industrial facilities 2008–2012) ([2]).

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are not included because of the poor quality of data reported in the E-PRTR. The following table summarises the air pollutants that are included in the indicator:

Pollutant

Abbreviation

Group

Pressures/Impacts criteria met

Nitrous oxides

NOx

Air pollutant

P/I2, P/I3

Non-methane volatile organic compounds

NMVOCs

Air pollutant

P/I2, P/I3

Particulate matter

PM10

Air pollutant

P/I1

Sulphur dioxide

SO2

Air pollutant

P/I1, P/I3

Cadmium

Cd

Heavy Metal

P/I2

Lead

Pb

Heavy metal

P/I2

Mercury

Hg

Heavy metal

P/I1

Greenhouse gas data were deemed most reliable and complete in the MMR inventory. Key greenhouse gases were chosen based on the following criteria:

Policy criteria:

  • P1: the pollutant must be covered by EU Emissions Trading Directive (EC, 2003) ([3]) and the Monitoring Mechanism Regulation (EC, 2013) ([4])

and

Pressures/Impacts criteria:

  • P/I1: more than half of the emissions of the greenhouse gas must have occurred within industry for at least one year between 1990 and the year for which the latest data are available, calculated via industry emission data reported under the MMR, as a percentage of total emissions in EEA33 national inventories

and

  • P/I2: the emissions of the greenhouse gas must have contributed more than 5 % to total CO2e emissions from Annex I countries for at least one year between 1990 and the year for which the latest data are available.

F-gases are not included because of the reduced number of countries that report complete time series of emissions. The following table summarises the greenhouse gases that are included in the indicator.

GHG

Abbreviation

Group

Pressures/Impacts criteria met

Carbon dioxide

CO2

Greenhouse gas

P/I1, P/I2

Data on water pollutant emissions or releases from industry are only available in the E-PRTR and not for any non-industrial sectors. An assessment of the significance of industry is therefore not possible for water pollution. Key water pollutants were chosen based on the following criteria:

Policy criteria:

  • P1: the pollutant must be covered by the IED (EC, 2010) ([5]), the Water Framework Directive (WFD) (EC, 2000) ([6]) or the OSPAR (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) list of chemicals for priority action

and

Pressures/Impacts criteria:

  • P/I1: the pollutant must be highlighted as having a potentially significant impact on health in water (determined through the toxicity, bioavailability and bioaccumulation potential)

or

  • P/I2: the pollutant must have significant eutrophication impacts on water and ecosystems

or

  • P/I3: the substance must affect the oxygen balance of water.

The WFD’s list of priority substances covers 33 substances or groups of substances, of which 13 are priority hazardous substances ([7]). More recently, the European Commission’s proposal for a directive amending the WFD suggests further pollutants for consideration as priority substances ([8]). Although the E-PRTR covers these and other substances, the data quality and consistency of reporting across countries is sufficient for only a small selection of water pollutants. Pollutants outside this selection, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and dioxins and furans are not included because of the poor quality of the data reported in the E-PRTR. The table below summarises the water pollutants that are included. It must be emphasised that this list of pollutants does not cover numerous organic pollutants, pesticides and emerging compounds, such as pharmaceuticals and microplastics.

Pollutant

Abbreviation

Group

Pressures/Impacts criteria met

Total nitrogen

Tot-N

Inorganic substances

P/1, P/I2

Total phosphorus

Tot-P

Inorganic substances

P/1, P/I2

Total organic carbon

TOC

Organic substances

P/1, P/I3

Nickel

Ni

Heavy metal

P1, P/I1

Cadmium

Cd

Heavy Metal

P1, P/I1

Lead

Pb

Heavy metal

P1, P/I1

Mercury

Hg

Heavy metal

P1, P/I1

Data on industrial releases to land are incomplete in the E-PRTR and the above mentioned data on soil contamination from the JRC were chosen instead to illustrate the role of industrial activities in this respect. Due to the limited nature of data available, this indicator simply reuses what the JRC produced.

Statistics on waste originating from industry and other sources are available from Eurostat’s waste generation statistics. These statistics are used to assess the significance of industry in this context for both hazardous and non-hazardous waste generation. Eurostat’s statistics are, however, only available in a relatively aggregated format in the Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE) code system. The assessment of trends for the various industrial sub-sectors is, therefore, based on the data on waste transfers reported to E-PRTR.

The different sources of data and statistics mentioned above rely on a variety of code systems to define industry and other economic sectors and activities:

  • CLRTAP relies on the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) nomenclature for reporting of air pollutants (NFR);
  • E-PRTR has its own annex with a list of industrial sub-sectors and activities;
  • MMR uses the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) common reporting format (CRF);
  • Eurostat has its own Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (or NACE codes).

The relations between the different code systems used here to assess the industrial sector and its sub-sectors are discussed in detail in the EEA's methodology report on Industrial Pollution Profiles, available here.

([1]) EC, 2010, Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:334:0017:0119:en:PDF) accessed 25 May 2017.

([2]) EEA, 2014, Costs of air pollution from European industrial facilities 2008–2012. EEA Technical report No 20/2014, European Environment Agency (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/costs-of-air-pollution-2008–2012) accessed 25 May 2017.

([3]) EC, 2003, Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 2003 establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community and amending Council Directive 96/61/EC (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32003L0087) accessed 25 May 2017.

([4]) EC, 2013, Regulation No 525/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on a mechanism for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions and for reporting other information at national and Union level relevant to climate change and repealing Decision No 280/2004/EC (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32013R0525) accessed 25 May 2017.

([5]) ibid

([6]) EC, 2000, Directive 2000/60/EC of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32000L0060) accessed 25 May 2017.

([7]) ibid

([8]) EC, 2011, Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2000/60/EC and 2008/105/EC as regards priority substances in the field of water policy (COM/2011/0876 final - 2011/0429 (COD)) (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52011PC0876) accessed 25 May 2017.

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling was conducted.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

There are a number of uncertainties regarding the methodology used for this indicator. Some of them relate to data sources themselves (mentioned below), others to the link between them.

The link between the different data sources relies on a 'mapping' of industrial activities across them. The methodology for this process is described above. It contains uncertainties because it links different definitions of what industry is to each other. Uncertainties mostly arise in cases were data are only available at an aggregate level. A specific economic activity or sub-sector code, that is here considered to be related to industry, therefore, might contain non-industrial activities or sub-sectors.

Data sets uncertainty

The E-PRTR data set inherently contains uncertainties because it is reported. This means that facility operators report the data to competent authorities at varying levels of government in Member States. These data are, in some cases, measured, in some cases estimated and in others calculated. Each of these methods has its own associated uncertainties. The data are then passed on to various regional and national authorities before being reported to the EEA and the European Commission. It should further be noted that the E-PRTR only covers the industrial activities in its annex, and releases and transfers above specified thresholds. In addition, there are no data for Croatia for 2007-2013 in E-PRTR and the data set has not been gap-filled.

The methodologies for conceiving national data reported to the GHG MMR and to the CLRTAP inventories also contain uncertainties usually associated with the modelling of emissions. Uncertainties associated with the GHG MMR data set are covered in detail in the specifications of the EEA Total greenhouse gas emission trends and projections indicator. Uncertainties of the CLRTAP data set, on the other hand, are described in the specifications of the EEA Emissions of the main air pollutants in Europe indicator.

The data underlying the assessment on soil contamination are taken directly from the JRC without any changes. Uncertainties associated with these data can be found in the specifications of the associated indicator on Progress in management of contaminated sites.

Eurostat statistics are the result of collecting national statistics via questionnaires. This process and the underlying process of gathering data at Member State level are prone to uncertainties. Uncertainties associated with Eurostat’s statistics on waste and annual national accounts can be found in the associated metadata here and here.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Bastian Zeiger

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CSI 055
INDP 003
Specification
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Industry Industry

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year

Classification

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

Data used

Relevant policy documents

Document Actions
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100