Global VOC legislation

Global VOC legislation

In recent times there has been a shift in terms of developing VOC legislation. A decade ago, the most active areas were the EU and the US. However, in recent times, Korea and China have become much more active in this area.

In the US, the VOC legislation affecting the Marine market has been relatively stable for the past 10-15 years. The main piece of legislation is still the NESHAP (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) for Shipbuilding and Ship Repair, which is a “categories and limits-type piece of legislation – different types of paint have different VOC limits. Several counties in California also have Marine-specific VOC legislation, which is slightly stricter than that of the whole of the USA. In addition, SCAQMD (California South Coast Air Quality Management District) is proposing to merge Marine and Pleasure Craft legislation. Industry is opposed to this, and has submitted numerous comments stating that the 2 industries are very distinct and the VOC legislation should reflect this. Despite this plan, it should be noted that in the USA, the VOC limits for Marine coatings tend to remain stable and there is not the drive to reduce VOC form this sector, like there is for Architectural and Industrial Maintenance Coatings, which are having progressively tougher VOC limits applied across the USA.  In the USA, there are numerous VOC-exempt compounds, which are solvents, but which can be discounted from VOC figures as they have low photochemical activity and don’t tend to form smog. These VOC exempt compounds allow for formulating compliant products with lower solids content.

In the EU, The Solvent Emissions part of the Industrial Emissions Directive affects Marine coatings. This is based on an averaging approach, where the customer facility has to comply with a certain percentage VOC emission figure, which depends on the size of the facility. There is also the BREF associated with this, which is the Best Available Techniques Reference Document. This document details further ways of reducing the VOC impact, for example using higher solids coatings where available and keeping solvent containers closed when not in use. The BREF is due for revision this year and industry have submitted comments but it is not yet known what the regulators will do to change this document.

In the far-east, the only regulations which have been established for several years are those in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Taiwan started imposing a tax on all producers of VOC-containing compounds since 2009. Hong Kong introduced VOC regulations for vessel paints in 2010. Their legislation is similar to that of the USA and there are also numerous   exempt solvents, which allow some formulating flexibility.

The Ministry of Environment in South Korea, introduced VOC regulations affecting Marine and Offshore coatings in 2015. As in the USA, the legislation introduced is a categories and limits-type, although there are fewer categories than there are in the USA and Hong kong.. There are also 4 exempt solvents, which could allow for formulating compliant products with lower solids content.

In China, there were no VOC rules affecting the Marine industry until 2 years ago. Now, as discussed in the March 2016 Propeller article, there are numerous VOC controls, including categories and limits rules, taxation and controls for specific harmful substances in Marine coatings.

With regards to the future, it is certain that both China and Korea will increase VOC controls. Korea plan to review their VOC rules in the next couple of years, with stricter limits being planned for 2020.

Other regions considering VOC legislation include Thailand, Japan and Brazil. It is not yet known what shape the regulations will take, or when they might be implemented, but Regulatory Affairs are watching developments closely.

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