Sodium chloride is not classified as dangerous to the environment and the manufacture of salt does not require registration under the Environmental Protection Act Integrated Pollution and Control Regulations.
In addition, members of The Salt Association seek to minimise the environmental impact of their manufacturing, storing and distributing operations using the available technology, and pursue continuous improvement in all their activities.
The industry, in its various forms, is regulated through a number of European Directives that regulate operating practices, food safety and environmental performance. Environmental compliance for each manufacturing site is regulated through a combination of individual Local Authority (LA) permits and Environment Agency (EA) licences. The LA permits describe the control, monitoring and reporting regimes that each company must have in place, for controlled processes, to demonstrate compliance to standards relating to such matters as dust control, noise levels and air quality (if applicable).
Raw Material Extraction
The Salt Association has a diverse membership with a long history of manufacturing Vacuum Salt and Rock Salt from underground halite deposits. These are either mined by the “room and pillar” technique to produce rock salt, or by controlled brine pumping (solution mining) to produce brine for evaporated salt. Both techniques are proven technologies designed to minimise subsidence risk.
The proven UK salt reserves are extensive, with an estimated 500 years capacity at current extraction rates.
Evaporated salt is manufactured by evaporating the water from brine, under vacuum. This entails the use of heat energy, with implications for CO2 emissions. The vacuum process maximises energy efficiency that is closely monitored for both commercial and environmental reasons. The steam used for the evaporation process is generated in accordance with IPPC regulations and, wherever possible, is reused within the manufacturing process.
Whilst rock salt mining does require energy input, this is considerably lower than for evaporated salt. All manufacturers monitor and seek to maximise their energy efficiency. Users are encouraged to weigh the overall energy impact, including the lower distribution energy usage of indigenous supplies.
Abstractions and Discharges
Where relevant, the EA licences cover water abstraction requirements, discharges to water and operation of boiler plants. The salt industry has an excellent record of co-operation with the regulator and compliance with conditions detailed within each licence. As manufacturing and mining processes continue to evolve, the industry refines and improves its environmental performance to benefit the working environment, local communities and the environment in general.
Evaporated salt is distributed in bags and in bulk. Vehicle movements are rationalised as far as possible consistent with customer needs, and reputable hauliers are used.
Packaging is recyclable and complies with the Essential Requirements Regulations and members comply with the Producer Responsibility Regulations.
Salt has a wide range of disparate uses. It is not possible, therefore, for salt manufacturers to develop full life cycle analysis for their products in every use. If customers require information to assist in their own environmental assessments, individual manufacturers will give as much help as possible about the manufacture of the salt products that they supply.