EPA publishes industrial pollutant emissions data

Date released: August 22, 2019


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published environmental data today on Ireland’s national pollutant and transfer register.  This is a public register of pollutant releases and waste transfers from large industrial activities in Ireland. The information supports EU-wide reporting through the European Commission’s e-Register External linkwebsite which contains data reported annually by more than 34,000 industrial facilities across 33 European Countries.

Covering 91 pollutants from 417 large industrial facilities in Ireland, the data indicates trends across a number of key parameters.  Findings from the 2017 data include:

  • A 69 per cent decrease in Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant gas emissions, showing the positive response to phase out and switch to a more environmentally-friendly bulk refrigerant by Irish Industry. 
  • A 17 per cent increase in 2017 in the recovery of hazardous waste within Ireland.
  • A 47 per cent increase (165,000 tonnes) in the quantity of hazardous waste sent abroad for recovery.

Patrick Geoghegan, EPA Senior Manager said:

“The data on hazardous waste transfers indicates that the positive trend to send hazardous waste for recovery treatment, rather than disposal, continued in 2017.  However, it also highlights that Ireland has not moved significantly towards self-sufficiency. A lack of domestic infrastructure and the often more favourable cost option of treatment and disposal abroad have meant that export continues to be a significant treatment route for Ireland’s hazardous waste.”

The pollutant release and transfer register provides greater transparency among stakeholders and incentivises industry to establish clean production techniques and pollution abatement equipment to reduce emissions. The Irish Pollutant Register can be viewed here.

Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

Notes to Editor

Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR): The data contained within the Register does not present an assessment of environmental performance at any particular facility, nor does it assess the impact of reported emissions on the local/national environment.  EPA licensed operations are regulated and monitored by the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement in accordance with licence conditions.

Key highlights:

  • The figures show a total of 417 facilities were reported to the EPA compared to 401 for 2016. The increase is reflective of increased economic activity and regulation of facilities.  
  • Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is emitted from the combustion of fuel containing carbon such as coal, oil and natural gas for industrial (as well as other) purposes. This pollutant was reported from 21 E-PRTR industrial facilities and its release increased by 2% over the previous year.
  • 2017 saw marginal increases in both nitrogen dioxide (5%) and sulphur dioxide (1%) releases to air.  The energy sector contributed 51% of nitrogen dioxide and 77% of sulphur dioxide releases. The mineral industry including cement contributed 34% of nitrogen dioxide and 18% of sulphur dioxide. Such pollutants are derived from high temperature fuel combustion. 
  • Ammonia (NH3) releases to air were predominantly reported from the intensive livestock production sector and have increased by 11% over 2016.
  • Nutrient releases to water (e.g. total nitrogen and total phosphorus) were mainly reported from large urban (city) wastewater treatment plants. 
  • Total heavy metal releases to waters including cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc and arsenic decreased by 1% between 2016 and 2017. These pollutants are primarily released from the waste and wastewater management sector.
  • The total hazardous waste tonnage, transferred from PRTR facilities for recovery within Ireland, increased by 17% from 37,894 tonnes in 2016 to 44,160 tonnes in 2017.
  • The total hazardous waste transferred from PRTR facilities, for recovery, to facilities outside Ireland increased by 47% from 112,423 tonnes in 2016 to 165,043 tonnes in 2017. 
  • For non-hazardous waste the total waste transferred from PRTR facilities for recovery increased by 11% from 3.38 million tonnes in 2016 to 3.75 million tonnes in 2017.  
  • For non-hazardous waste, the total waste transferred from PRTR facilities for disposal decreased by 12% from 1.52 million tonnes in 2016 to 1.34 million tonnes in 2017. 

E-PRTR Regulation:

The European Communities (European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register) Regulations, 2007, S.I. No. 123 of 2007) signed into Irish Law on the 22nd March 2007 the E-PRTR Regulation, (EC) No. 166/2006, concerning the establishment of a European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register. 

PRTR Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 649 of 2011) signed into law on the 13th December 2011, established an Irish pollutant release and transfer register in the form of a publicly accessible electronic database.

The E-PRTR Regulation has a number of principal objectives, as set out in Article 1 of the Regulation:

Article 1
Subject matter

This Regulation establishes an integrated pollutant release and transfer register at Community level in the form of a publicly accessible electronic database and lays down rules for its functioning, in order to implement the UNECE Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers and facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making, as well as contributing to the prevention and reduction of pollution of the environment.

Annex 1 of the PRTR Regulation (EC) No. 166 of 2006 lists the activities which are subject to reporting under E-PRTR.

Annex 2 of the E-PRTR Regulation lists the 91 substances that are subject to reporting under E-PRTR, above specified release thresholds.