Currently, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) is in the process of completing the Draft Law on Environmental Protection (amended). One of the new contents in the Draft Law, in Article 111 is the application of best available technology (BAT). This is a new approach to technology-based pollution prevention and control policy. This is also the first time BAT is included in the Law on Environmental Protection (LEP), so many opinions are raised in the process of discussing BAT concepts/contents, BAT approach options, roadmap and implementation steps, difficulties and challenges in implementation. A thematic study on BAT was conducted by MONRE and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) in Việt Nam. Hopefully, these shares will contribute to partially answering the questions posed and informing the decision-making process.
BAT helps prevent and control environmental pollution
According to the Draft LEP (amended), BAT is defined as follows: “The best available techniques are the techniques and methods of effective and advanced management, consistent with reality to prevent and control pollution in each stage of the production process, minimizing the impact on the environment”. However, some domestic production sectors have known BAT early and used BAT since the 90s of the last Century. The textile and garment and footwear sectors are the two sectors with the earliest and deepest integration, as well as the first two sectors approaching BAT. BAT helps businesses access the market and meet the rigorous requirements of customers. Many other businesses, through recent surveys, are applying best techniques in their sectors to use resources efficiently and reduce emissions but not call BAT. According to Vietnamese experts, BAT essentially means “effective technical /technological solutions to help solve production problems, including environmental problems”. BAT being used in Việt Nam is mostly from abroad, or refers to foreign documents, not originating in Việt Nam. Currently, Việt Nam does not have its own BAT list.
Functions of BAT
BAT is a technology with a number of key functions such as setting emission values and licensing conditions, tools for pollution prevention and control and market functions. Therefore, BAT becomes an important policy instrument in many countries.
Policy instrument for setting emission limit values and licensing conditions
In fact, BAT often comes from large businesses, researching and piloting to solve production problems. When successful, BAT becomes “model” to learn, especially for small and medium businesses without conditions to pilot. BAT reflects the technological capabilities at a time with the outstanding technical specifications identified by managers as emission limit values (ELVs). ELV is defined as the highest value allowed to be discharged into water, soil and air environments for certain pollutants, corresponding to the production sectors, that are legally bound or regulated for industrial deployments. ELV is created by BAT, BAT has the function of creating the policy regulations while ELVs are legally bound in all countries, BAT is for reference only. Technologists are free to choose different approaches to technologies /technical solutions as long as ELVs are achieved. BAT in that case acts as a technical guideline, assisting operators in the design, operation, maintenance and disposal of facilities for ELV compliance.
BAT in pollution prevention and control
BAT is a technology-based approach to industrial pollution prevention and control. BAT carries a technological function in solving problems of prevention. These are techniques applied before recycling, treatment and landfill processes, or before an end-to-end treatment process. Production is divided into three main stages: Input, processing and end-to-end treatment. BAT mainly affects the first two processes of production, preventing or minimizing emissions before treatment. Key techniques include: Equipment or technology transformation, process or process transformation, changes in formula or product design, changes in input materials, improvement in corporate governance, maintenance, training and inventory. A production technology can integrate multiple BATs. Not all BATs produce ELV, and a single BAT does not replace environmental impact assessment reports. ELVs are established by one or more BATs, including the balanced end-to-end technologies.
Market means and production efficiency improvement
In fact, many markets and importers of Việt Nam require businesses to perform BAT, or meet BAT conditions. For the textile & garment sector, the European Union (EU) market provides a list of restricted substances in textile & garment products to export to this market. To solve that problem, experts and businesses must refer to relevant BAT guidelines, apply BAT to eliminate restricted substances. Many large textile and garment customers ask to associate BATs with exports, even assign one or more specific BATs to each product lot. The practical benefits lead businesses to BAT, applying BAT more and more popular.
Thus, BAT is a mean for businesses to achieve product quality goals, reduce costs and increase competitiveness. From a technological point of view, environmental issues such as emissions are often associated with resource efficiency. Energy efficiency and saving techniques are both economical and reduce emissions at the same time (Gas emissions, solid wastes). Some other techniques allow to improve product quality, along with the elimination of toxic chemicals and restricted substances in the products. BAT contributes to the creation of outstanding technical specifications that benefit the businesses and the environment.
In principle, BAT is determined based on multidimensional data sources: Economy; Environment; Technique/technology (Some guidelines also consider social factors). In addition, the database also includes environmental monitoring statistics and data, a balance between preventive and end-to-end treatment technologies. The steps taken, the time and resources needed to mobilize depend on the goal of completing the BAT reference document. There are many parties involved in collecting information and assessing/selecting BAT. BAT reference documents (BREFs) are the most important documents, the result of communication between many partners: Government representatives, industry/business representatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research institutes...
The EU has a standardized method for selecting and assessing techniques for BAT determination, called the Seville Process. Accordingly, there are 3 basic steps to determine BAT: Survey information, Assess technology and Develop BAT selection criteria. In practice, each country takes different steps, although still relying on the EU framework guidelines. The selection of sector/field is the first step. All countries’ laws on environmental protection are concerned with the source of pollution, the level of pollution by region and by production sector/field. These are also the priority subjects to apply BAT. Russia divides production sectors into 4 groups: I, II, III and IV according to the level of adverse environmental impacts (Group I is the largest emitter group) while Korea pointed out 17 most polluting sectors/fields based on environmental statistic and monitoring results. The United States Clean Air Act points to air pollutants, with about 8 sectors at high risk in this direction.
The division of the sector/field by the level of environmental impact also means that operators will be bound by BAT-related integration licenses, mandatory requirements for installation of automatic monitoring equipment with data transmission to the national monitoring center. Before collecting information on the economic, environmental and technical aspects of pollution prevention and control technologies, the technical working group will decide on the contents and scope of the survey. Data will be collected based on sector-oriented survey questionnaires.
In the list of remaining BATs (after eliminating according to the criteria), the reference document must contain information on technical aspects, financial costs, including equipment prices available. In the list of techniques separated as BAT, the operators are not required to adopt the lowest cost of them. In some sectors, such as food processing, a given list may have several options (BATs) for one objective, some BATs are only applicable to sub-sectors.
BAT reference documents (BREFs)
BREFs are the final result of the BAT assessment and selection process. Technical Working Groups (TWGs) make the final decision on BAT selection and BAT document preparation. Draft BREFs also have to go through public consultation process before they can be approved. Country environmental laws stipulate that technological parameters (ELVs and BAT-AELs accompanying emission levels and technology parameters) will be submitted to the Government for official approval. No later than 6 months after the BAT reference document is accepted/approved, the BAT-AEL becomes mandatory and enforced.
In the EU, BREFs are developed under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) and administered by the European IPPC Bureau, based at the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Seville. BAT conclusions are published in the Official Journal of the EU, and translated into all 23 official EU languages. There is currently a total of 32 sectoral BREFs being developed during the period 1997 - 2018. Decisions have been made public for 13 industrial fields and over 19 fields that benefit from BREFs. The BAT Guidelines (BREFs) can take 39 months to develop and 12 months for consultation and decision making. Therefore, the formulation and issuance of BREF can theoretically take about 4 years.
The world economy is shifting towards green growth, climate change adaptation, a BAT-based approach while achieving resource efficiency and reducing emissions is the right approach consistent with the general trend. Countries are moving towards the goal of industrialization and modernization, in fact, towards the high-tech industry. Businesses wishing to solve environmental problems such as emissions and pollution control must be associated with economic efficiency in resource use. BAT contributes to improving technology efficiency, eliminating toxic chemicals/materials, promoting the realization of green chemistry. Obviously, the BAT approach is the only way that can satisfy the desires of the businesses.
Lê Minh Đức
Vietnam Environmental Industry Association
Nguyễn Thị Hồng Lam
Environmental Science Institute (VEA)
(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh III/2020)