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 in the majority of our beverage plants. Over 60 percent of our beverage can plants are equipped with RTOs today. RTOs destroy a minimum of 95 percent of the captured VOCs by thermal destruction.

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 6,225 metric tons of VOCs in 2015, a 6 percent increase compared with 2011. This increase results from the expansion of our businesses and 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 for a higher VOC content product that is increasingly popular in the marketplace and used in our operations.

In our slug business, we reduced absolute emissions by 36 percent and normalized VOC emissions by over 31 percent per metric ton of slugs sold since 2013.

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