Environmental legislation

The environmental legislation and regulations are becoming more and more complex. Therefore, Centexbel informs and advises companies about any changes in the environmental legislation applying to the textile industry.


Sector-related standards

The Flemish Regulation on Environment (VLAREM) has been revised which has led to the modification of the sector-related evacuation standards for textile finishing companies (1/1/2010):

  • The standards applying to COD, total nitrogen, total phosphor, total cupper and total iron are stricter.
  • A number of evacuation parameters have been deleted, such as Kjeldahl nitrogen and nitrate (replaced by total nitrogen), cationic and non-ionogenic detergents, acrylic nitriles, phenols, free cyanides, chlorinated solvent, total cadmium, total mercury, N-Nitrosodipropylamine …
  • Other parameters are stricter, such as organochloride and and phosphor pesticides, total chromium and chromium VI, total zinc, chloroform and also total cobalt, total nickel.
  • New parameters include sulphates, synthetic pyrethroides, total boron, naphtalen, PAK’s and AOX.
  • It is forbidden to evacuate the following substances: C10-C13 highly chlorinated short-chain paraffin, pentachloride phenol, organic tin compounds and chlorine separating bleach auxiliaries with the exception of sodium chlorite.
  • The use of environmentally hazardous substances must be limited and avoided as much as possible.

New environmental management standards may lead to stricter conditions for wastewater evacuation

On May 21st, 2010 (BS 9/7/2010), the Flemish Government has determined the new environmental management standards for surface waters. By this the decree on integral water management, determining amongst others the environmental quality objectives for surface waters, has been implemented. The new environmental quality standards for surface waters have entered into force on January 11th, 2011 with the publication of the river basin management plans “Scheldt and Meuse” in the Belgian Official Journal.
Annex 2.3.1 of Vlarem II already including several environmental management standards has been substantially adapted and extended. A distinction is made between:

Directive 2003/87/EC on the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS)

This directive determines that a number of operators of certain specified activities have to hold a greenhouse gas emissions permit as from January 1, 2005. Textile companies running a combustible installation with a nominal thermal input capacity of more than 20 MW fall under this directive.

Class specific environmental management standards for biological and generally physical-chemical parameters

Different categories of surface water entities (rivers, lakes and transition waters) are being subdivided in types (e.g. rivers: small brook, large brook, small river, large and very large river). For each of these categories/types new environmental management standards are proposed. The generally physical-chemical parameters include temperature, oxygen level, chemical oxygen demand, chloride, pH, nitrogen and phosphor compounds, etc. The biological parameters constitute a new evaluation criterion of the environmental management standards and include an “ecologic quality coefficient (EQC)” for the different organisms living in the waters (flora and fauna).

Non class specific environmental management standards for harmful substances

Independent of the category or type the surface water entity belongs to, environmental management standards applying to the harmful substances have been determined. The point of departure is that in no harmful substances in a harmful concentration may be present in any type of surface water entity. For a number of parameters, an adapted standard is included for transition waters. A number of substances are classified into priority substances and priority harmful substances. For each parameter, a yearly average (based on the chronic long-term effects) and a maximum value (based on immediate effects) are determined.
The table of the environmental management standards for surface water, the new annex 2.3.1 to Vlarem II regarding harmful substances, is completed with a new column “classification criterion HS). This criterion is the touchstone to categorize wastewater as industrial wastewater. If the wastewater contains substances included in the list in concentrations superior to the HS classification criterion, the wastewater must be considered as industrial wastewater containing harmful substances. For each of these parameters, an environmental licence has to be obtained.
Certain parameters (32) belonging to the new annex 2.3.1 of Vlarem II become stricter, others (29) become less severe and a number of new parameters have been introduced. For a HS classification criterion beneath the reporting limit (annex of Vlarem II), companies become obliged to have a licence for that parameter as soon as the concentration in the wastewater is above the reporting limit. If the reporting limit is fixed below the classification criterion in the future, the HS classification criterion will apply.
It is rather useless that companies screen the complete list of new (± 170) environmental management standards, as a large amount of substances does not apply to the activities of the company. Each company has to select the substances that are relevant to its processes/products and verify whether the HS classification criterion has been exceeded or not.
If the limit is exceeded, the source of it will be investigated and possible measures to reduce this source are looked into. Afterwards, the company will look for available technologies to reduce the concentration of the substance below the HS classification criterion. If this is not possible for company-technical reasons, it is possible to adapt the standards to conform to Vlarem.
In their evaluation, the authorities will mediate between the Best Available Techniques and the ecological capacity of the receiving surface water. The basic rule of 10 x EMS remains the evacuation standard, although exceptions can be made in both a positive and negative manner.
For non-persistent harmful substances and a sufficiently large flow-rate of the receiving surface water, a larger dilution factor may be considered. For priority substances and more in particular for priority harmful substances, the opposite might apply.


Flemish policy on energy consumption

The Flemish policy on energy consumption has been laid down in the REG Decree (Rational Energy Consumption) that has been approved by the Flemish Parliament on April 1, 2004.
With regard to companies, this policy is based on two pillars:

  • Legal obligations via VLAREM
  • Voluntary energy policy agreements for companies consuming great quantities of energy (Benchmarking covenant and audit covenant).

The Flemish policy doesn't ask the companies to reduce their absolute energy consumption but to improve their energy efficiency, i.e. to reduce their specific energy consumption (GJ/ton). The absolute primary energy consumption determines which obligations or covenants apply for a company.

For more information on the benchmarking covenant please visit the website of the Verification office


Recently, the Flemish environmental authority has elaborated several projects to reduce the amount and optimise the quality of industrial waste as well as of sludge.
At the one hand, there is the Sludge implementation plan including textile sludge, through which the government is looking for a sustainable solution of the growing "sludge mountain".
At the other hand, there is the Strategic Waste Plan by which a number of waste flows have been appointed as priority waste products, including textile waste together with production related industrial sludge.


The European Directive 96/61/EEC - generally called the IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) directive – has an important impact on the environmental requirements imposed to the industry. The European member states are indeed obliged to review the licence standards in all large companies by 2007. In the evaluation of the environmental standards, an integrated environmental vision must prevail: wastewater, emissions, solid waste and energy have to be examined as a whole instead of separately. The Best Available Techniques (BAT) serve as point of reference.

To assist the member states, the IPPC bureau - by order of the European Commission - has drafted BAT reference documents (BREF) for the different industrial sectors.

BREF is a reference document and not a law. It is meant as information to the environmental administrations granting an environmental exploitation licence. It is important to evaluate the proposed BAT measures per company in the objective of preserving the environment as much as possible. We therefore recommend companies to thoroughly study the BREF document (chapter 5) and in particular those items directly related to the company itself: feasibility, alternatives with identical results, reasons to introduce certain measures or not...



REACH is short for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals. This regulation (n° 1970/2006) wants to guarantee the safe use of chemical substances and preparations throughout the entire industrial production chain and therefore imposes not only obligations on the producers and importers of chemicals concerning the gathering and distribution of information on the characteristics of the substance, but also on the downstream users, such as textile manufacturers. After all, each downstream user has to assure the proper safe use of chemicals and see to it that the necessary information is sent to the chain, also about substances contained in articles.

Brominated flame retardants

Flame retardants are used to add fire-proof properties to textiles. Because of the controversy around bromated fire retardants, the sector is searching to apply alternatives, wherever possible and depending on the sort of textile and its application. Alternatives to brominated flame retardants (i.e. decabromodiphenyl ether) do not always comply with the imposed safety and comfort requirements. After many years of study, the European Risk Assessment on decabromodiphenyl ether (DBDE or deca BDE) decided to allow its use and the industry agreed to volunteer in a monitoring programme on industrial emissions, VECAP. The VECAP (Voluntary Emissions Control Action Programme) already includes 71 vol% of the decaBCE users in Belgium. The textile sector is now actively involved in drafting a code of good practice for the use and removal of decaBDE.

REACH and GHS: Globally Harmonised System on the classification and labelling of chemicals

Chemicals, through the different steps from their production to their handling, transport and use, are a real danger for human health and the environment. People of any ages, from children to elderly, using many different languages and alphabets, belonging to various social conditions, including illiterates, are daily confronted to dangerous products (chemicals, pesticides, etc.)
To face this danger, and given the reality of the extensive global trade in chemicals and the need to develop national programs to ensure their safe use, transport and disposal, it was recognized that an internationally-harmonized approach to classification and labelling would provide the foundation for such programs. Once countries have consistent and appropriate information on the chemicals they import or produce in their own countries, the infrastructure to control chemical exposures and protect people and the environment can be established in a comprehensive manner.
The new system, which was called "Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)", addresses classification of chemicals by types of hazard and proposes harmonized hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets. It aims at ensuring that information on physical hazards and toxicity from chemicals be available in order to enhance the protection of human health and the environment during the handling, transport and use of these chemicals. The GHS also provides a basis for harmonization of rules and regulations on chemicals at national, regional and worldwide level, an important factor also for trade facilitation.
The first edition of the GHS, which was intended to serve as the initial basis for the global implementation of the system, was approved by the Committee of Experts at its first session (11-13 December 2002) and published in 2003. The first revised edition of the GHS (GHS Rev.1) was published in 2005 and included the amendments to the first edition adopted by the Committee of Experts at its second session (10 December 2004). At its third session (14 December 2006), the Committee of Experts adopted a set of amendments to the first revised edition of the GHS, which are included in the second revised edition of the GHS (published in July 2007).