Once approved by the European Commission the techniques will serve as a guide to various EU government regulators when granting permits to manufacturing plants under the bloc's Integrated Pollution Prevention (IPPC) directive of 1996.
In general, manufacturing plants will have to follow the techniques if they want permits to build or operate.
The IPPC directive sets out a common set of rules for permitting the building of industrial installations. The directive aims at lowering pollution from various sources throughout manufacturingprocesses.
The procedures are set out in a document agreed on yesterday by a negotiating forum composed of food industry representatives and environmental regulators from the bloc's member states.
The document sets out the best available techniques (BAT) food, drink and milk processing plants can use in minimising their impact on the environment.
The representatives agreed that water consumption, effluent discharges, energy use and waste generation were the most common environmental impacts across the food and drink sectors.
The BAT document for the sectors recognises landspreading as a valid wastewater treatment technique to manage effluents and by-products from food, drink and milk production plants.
"Well-managed land application allows the minerals, organic matter and various other substances in the water to be stored and transformed, and respects protection of underground water," the Confederation of the food and drink industries of the EU (CIAA) stated yesterday. "This also contributes to maintaining adequate soil organic matter levels andassists the reduction of soil erosion."
The document also endorses the segregation of waste outputs as a major BAT to optimise use, re-use, recovery, recycling and disposal.
The document supports the concept of an integrated resource and waste management plan to ensure the optimal use of the different types of organic materials produced in the food and drink sector, in line with a high level of environmental protection, the CIAA stated in endorsing the outline.
The document also advises food and drink operators to collaborate with partners along the supply chain to create an integrated environmental impact reduction system.
The reference document is the result of negotiations between industry and representatives of the EU's member states over the past five years. The document will now be subject to further consultation before formal adoption by the European Commission.
The CIAA called on regulators to be flexible when applying the pollution control techniques contained in the document.
Proper consideration to geographical location, local environmental conditions of industrial plants and hygiene and food quality constraints should be given when deciding the techniques to be applied," the CIAA stated.
The IPPC Directive 96/61/EC lays down a framework requiring member states to issue operating permits for certain installations carrying on industrial activities.
The directive applies to new or substantially changed installations with effect from October 1999 and no later than October 2007 for existing installations.
The permits must contain conditions based on BAT as defined in the directive to achieve a high level of protection of the environment as a whole.
The directive requires the European Commission to organise an exchange of information between member states and the various industry sectors about the best BATs applicable to their operations.
The European IPPC Bureau organises the exchange of information and produces BAT reference documents (BREFs) which member states are required to take into account when determining the techniques to be used generally or in specific cases.