Our manufacturing facilities release a variety of air emissions. Our largest emissions source is related to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are generated by the evaporation of organic solvents in can coatings and drying those coatings. Another source for VOCs at Ball is the end compound, a sealing material used in our beverage end and food and household packaging plants. In the presence of sunlight and nitrogen oxides, VOCs form ozone, also called "summer smog."


We have reduced VOCs since the mid-1980s by operating regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs) onsite. RTOs destroy a minimum of 95 percent of the cpatured VOCs by thermal destruction. The majority of our manufacturing plants are equipped with RTOs today. In 2017, we will be installing two RTOs at Ball plants in China.

The environmental trade-off is that destroying VOCs contributes to an increase in natural gas consumption, which leads to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, since the late 1980s, we have standardized the use of water-based can coatings in our facilities as they have fewer VOCs contents. To reduce VOCs through alternative measures, technological progress and cooperation with our suppliers is needed.

The regulatory framework for VOC emissions is complex and varies in every region where we operate. The differences are related to diverse definitions of VOCs and different regulatory limits. For example, acetone, which is used for cleaning purposes, is listed as a VOC source in Europe but not in North America.

Globally, Ball Corporation emitted approximately 7,000 metric tons of VOCs in 2016, a 5 percent decrease compared with 2012. In some plants, emissions increased in recent years, primarily driven by the use of new coatings with higher VOC contents. One example are non-epoxy-based coatings used in some of our food and beverage cans, also referred to as BPA non-intent. Tactile overvarnish, which creates a special touch on the can’s surface, is another example of a higher VOC content product that is increasingly popular in the marketplace and used in our operations.

In our slug business, we reduced absolute VOC emissions by 10 percent and normalized VOC emissions by over 4 percent per metric ton of slugs sold since 2012.

A variety of measures and operational investments contributed to recent trends. Examples include:
  • Installing new RTOs and absorption wheels (e.g., in our Belgrade, Serbia, plant) 
  • Optimizing processes (e.g., temperatures, flow rate and volume)
  • Reducing diffuse emissions through advanced capture technology
  • Changing the media capturing VOCs in our RTOs
  • Using cleaning agents with lower VOC content, where feasible