Commission defends paper industry bref

Senior official rejects Cepi charge that suggested best available techniques not achievable

The European Commission has denied accusations by European pulp and paper mills that a series of recommended pollution control benchmarks due to be introduced from 2007 are unattainable in all but a handful of installations. The levels are set out in the industry's "bref," a non-binding guide to aid EU pollution control authorities in setting "best available technique" (BAT) emission limits under the 1996 integrated pollution, prevention and control directive (ENDS Daily 5 October).

"The performance benchmarks contained in the bref are certainly challenging, but by no means unrealistic," Jean-François Verstrynge, deputy director-general of the Commission's environment directorate, told the annual conference of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi) last week. The directorate coordinated work on the bref with the European IPPC bureau in Seville.

Last month, Cepi publicly criticised the BAT emission levels included in the bref and feared that authorities would apply them wholesale. This would cause severe economic disruption to the sector, it said, as only a tiny number of mills would be able to meet all the limits simultaneously (ENDS Daily 14 November). Other industry sectors for which brefs have been written have voiced similar concerns.

But Mr Verstrynge said the warnings were groundless. "Many mills should be able to enhance their performance by applying a suitable combination of...technologies so that they actually reach all relevant levels for emission and consumption presented in the bref," he said.

On other issues, Mr Verstrynge gave a guarded welcome to Cepi's recent unilateral commitment to increase paper recycling (ENDS Daily 10 November), though he said the Commission needed to know how the figure was calculated before it could endorse it. He said the Commission was unlikely to respond to paper industry calls for EU ecolabel qualification criteria for paper products to be weakened to allow a significantly greater share of the market to qualify.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; Cepi, tel: +32 2 627 4911; European IPPC Bureau, tel: +34 95 448 8284, whose site includes the full text of the bref.

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