Basic facts

Industry remains to be one of the main sources of contamination of the Baltic Sea through discharges into water bodies and emissions into the air which are then reaching the Baltic Sea with riverine inputs, direct discharges or airborne deposition. Industrial facilities also account for other important environmental impacts, including contamination of soil, generation of waste and the use of energy. According to the PLC-5 assessment, point sources (including mixed industrial and municipal discharges) contribute for total waterborne load by 12% of nitrogen and about 20% of phosphorus, corresponding to 80 thousand tons of N and 6 thousand tons of P. It is second largest anthropogenic source of nutrients after agriculture, with municipalities as the main source (90%).

There has been a decrease in industrial production, which dropped significantly in the countries that were in transition in the beginning of the 90's, and has only recently begun to pick up again. Some of the largest facilities were shut down due to financial problems, which were often relating to lack of raw material or decreased demand for products. Both plant closings and pollution control upgrades have contributed to a decrease in organic pollution and to some extent also in nutrient pollution from these sources. There has been an expansion in the number of small and medium size enterprises, which has been considerable in the countries in transition. These industries have been important in driving economic growth at the national and local level and have been responsible for a very high percentage of job creation. These industries also present significant new challenges for environmental management, due to their scale, diversity and distribution.

​An overview of main industrial facilities in HELCOM countries is presented here. This information is compiled only for the facilities that are reported to the European Pollution Releases and Transfers Register (E-PRTR online database) for the EU Member States, therefore any data for industrial sources in Russia is not included. Information about some of the main Russian industries is available from the HELCOM PLC-water Database and from the RusNIP Project Report

According to the recent HELCOM pollution load compilations, industrial discharges of phosphorus have also been reduced to a relatively small fraction of their levels in the 1980s in the same countries. In Denmark and Germany, phosphorus discharges from industry were reduced by approximately 85% between the late 1980s and 1995; thus, further reductions in point source phosphorus discharges are becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. In Sweden, discharges of phosphorus from industry have decreased by almost 95% since 1975, mainly as a result of the introduction of new cleaning technology and structural changes, especially in the chemical industry (PLC-5).

During recent years, global structural changes within the pulp and paper industry have entailed closedowns of several major plants in Finland and Sweden. Still today, regardless of a very significant decline, the largest nutrient discharges originate from the pulp and paper industry – mainly in Finland and Sweden – and to a smaller extent from the metal industry and the food processing industry. Outside the officially reported data, information has been received about significant industrial polluters in Russia within the pulp and paper, metal and chemical industry sectors (SEPA 2010).

Within HELCOM, industrial releases are regulated by part I of Annex III of the Helsinki Convention, introducing both specific requirements, as well as referring to the application of Best Environmental Practice (BEP) and Best Available Technology (BAT). The specific requirements include that

  1. Water management in industrial plants should aim at closed water systems or at a high rate of circulation in order to avoid waste water wherever possible.
  2. Industrial waste waters should be separately treated before mixing with diluting waters.
  3. Waste waters containing hazardous substances or other relevant substances shall not be jointly treated with other waste waters unless an equal reduction of the pollutant load is achieved compared to the separate purification of each waste water stream. The improvement of waste water quality shall not lead to a significant increase in the amount of harmful sludge.
  4. Limit values for emissions containing harmful substances to water and air shall be stated in special permits

More detailed industry wise requirements are specified in number of recommendations, addressing both concrete industrial branche​s as well as providing a general capping for harmonization of requirements with EU law provisions (HELCOM Recommendation 25/2)