Question / Answer
1. What is Thru.de?
Thru.de is an Internet portal that provides easily accessible key environmental data from about 5,000 registered industrial facilities in Germany. It holds information concerning the amount of pollutant releases to air, water and land as well as off-site transfers of waste and of pollutants in waste water from a list of 91 key pollutants including heavy metals, pesticides, greenhouse gases and dioxins from 2007 onwards. Some information on releases from diffuse sources is also available and will be gradually enhanced. The register contributes to transparency and public participation in environmental decision-making. It implements the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) PRTR Protocol to the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.
Thru.de is operated by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and is updated regularly. Competent authorities of the federal states receive the data from the facilities that apply BUBE software for reporting of data.
2. Why do we call PRTR now Thru.de?
From now on, the portal Thru.de replaces the former site on PRTR established in June 2009. The PRTR = Pollutant Release and Transfer Register is the German "Schadstofffreisetzungs- und -verbringungsregister". In recent years, staff of industrial facilities and public authorities concerned with data compilation and quality assurance resigned to the abbreviation PRTR. Other user feedback suggests that the term "PRTR" was hard to explain.
The name Thru.de is associated with clarity, transparency, reliability and credibility. In Nordic myth, Thrude used to be the goddess of trees and flowers; the name indicates “strength”, hence the new portal provides reliable, transparent and “powerful” information including plausible emissions data of pollutants into the environment.
3. What does PRTR stand for?
PRTR stands for 'Pollutant Release and Transfer Register' used at national, international and EU level. The term originates from the UNECE PRTR Protocol signed in 2003 in Kiev. In 2007, Germany ratified the Protocol that entered into force in 2009. PRTRs developed by contracting parties can be found under Links - PRTR international.
4. Which facilities are to be found on Thru.de?
Thru.de provides data from about 5,000 registered industrial facilities in Germany, most of which are large-scale operations.
In principle, all facilities that carry out an activity identified by the EU in the European E-PRTR Regulation must report their pollutant emissions. The regulation has been in force in all of the EU Member States since 2006. The list of industrial activities is in Annex I of the Regulation. The types of facilities with reporting requirements include power stations, refineries, chemical facilities or the food industry as well as landfills and waste water treatment plants.
Reporting is subject to the amount of pollutant releases and waste disposals off-site. The emission thresholds above which a facility must report is provided in Annex II of the E-PRTR Regulation. It lists the thresholds for releases to air, to water and to soil. Facilities also have to report if they transfer at least two tonnes of hazardous waste per year – or more than 2,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste.
The current thresholds have been set with the intention of covering - for each specific pollutant - about 90% of the total mass emissions from facilities regulated under E-PRTR.
The portal will also gradually integrate data on emissions from diffuse sources (see also Knowledge - Diffuse sources).
5. Which pollutants are included in Thru.de?
Thru.de provides for 91 pollutants falling under the following seven groups: greenhouse gases, other gases, heavy metals, pesticides, chlorinated organic substances, other organic substances and inorganic substances according to the European E-PRTR Regulation. (see also Knowledge – Pollutants and Waste)
6. Which sectors of industry are included in Thru.de?
Thru.de contains data reported by industrial facilities covering 65 economic activities within nine industrial sectors according to Annex I of the E-PRTR Regulation. These sectors include energy, the chemical industry, production and processing of metals, and the mineral industry. (see also Knowledge – Industrial sectors)
Other sectors are identified on Thru.de as they relate to emissions from diffuse sources.
7. How is information from industry transmitted to Thru.de?
Industrial information is taken up in the Thru.de portal in a three-step process:
(1) Facilities forward their data to the competent authority in the corresponding federal state. Data is submitted through the online data collecting system BUBE-Online: www.bube.bund.de.
(2) The competent authorities at federal states level review data for completeness and plausibility and then send it to the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA).
(3) UBA pools the data from the 16 federal states in the pollutant release and transfer register, does another review and then releases it on Thru.de. UBA also forwards the data to the EU Commission who includes it in the European Pollution Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR).
In Germany, the entire reporting procedure occurs online. Both operators and competent authorities use the BUBE-Online data collecting system. Once the operator has completed data submission, the competent authority receives an automatic notification and access to the operator’s data.
8. Will Thru.de lead to more red tape?
Thru.de processes and publishes sound environmental information for the public. The BUBE-Online data collecting system helps operators and competent authorities to minimise efforts. In this way, it reduces excessive regulation and rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic and rather facilitates action and decision making.
In Germany, the entire reporting procedure occurs online. BUBE-Online was developed in collaboration between the Federal Government, the federal states, and industrial associations and was part of the Federal Government's E-Government 2.0 Initiative.
The European Union is also striving for red tape reduction. The Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the European Union encourages citizens and business people to become actively involved in the process of reducing red tape at the European level. Citizens and business people can draw attention to annoying duties and provide proposals to, e.g., simplify procedures.
For more information on this topic, please visit the EU webpage. It features an online form to make suggestions for improvement. The German Federal Government also has online information about the programme to reduce administrative burdens (red tape) and better law making (see Federal Government web page).
10. How often do industrial facilities submit reports?
Operators must report data by May each year for the previous year.
On Thru.de, the data status is given when doing Queries. EU Member States may correct data errors retroactively and according to deadlines set by the Commission.
For more detailed information go to Downloads.
11. How is the quality of the data assured?
Operators are obliged to assure high quality of the data that they transmit via BUBE.
The competent authorities at federal states level must check whether all the data required has been submitted, what the actual quality of data is and how credible it is. The competent authorities may apply intercomparison and a verification routine to ensure completeness, consistency and reliability.
Competent authorities may contact an operator in case of implausible data that may reflect miscalculation or typing errors.
12. Which are the legal foundations of PRTR and Thru.de?
The establishment of open access to pollutant release and transfer registers originates from the UNECE PRTR Protocol which was translated into European and German regulations. The EU E-PRTR Regulation was essentially the European model for the German Act. The German PRTR Act (SchadRegProtAG) lays down the rules of reporting and disclosure of data in Germany. The law contains the provisions on the establishment of a national PRTR and the requirements of data collection and communication to the national and European PRTRs. The law also stipulates which information may be withheld, how high fines can be and that the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is the responsible body for publishing the data collected for the PRTR. UBA meets this requirement with the Thru.de-portal. (see also Knowledge - Legal).
13. How is the data on Thru.de used?
Anybody and everybody can access and use the data available from Thru.de (see also Legal notice). Public authorities, non-governmental organisations, the scientific community, insurance companies, operators themselves and others may use emissions data to, e.g., see what is emitted in the neighbourhood or to monitor trends on emissions of selected industrial facilities. Eventually, data is used to contribute to transparency and public participation in environmental decision making.
14. Do high emissions from a facility mean acute danger for the environment and human health?
This very much depends on a given pollutant and the amount of this pollutant a facility releases to air or water. Facilities contribute only proportional amounts to the total pollution.
Experts determine the quality of the environment by applying pollution concentration levels in ambient air or in water bodies. These levels are regulated in conformity with guidelines issued by the EU and the WHO to protect both human health and the environment. Besides the environment, humans can be adversely affected by exposure to pollutants in ambient air. In response, the European Union has developed an extensive body of legislation which establishes health based standards and objectives for a number of pollutants in air and substances entering water bodies.
15. Do high emissions mean badly developed environmental standards?
No. This conclusion is not acceptable. It needs to be taken into account that data on releases and waste disposal / movement tell nothing about the size of a facility. Two examples:
A large facility with a large production capacity may emit a large absolute number and/ or amounts of substances. This may happen despite the fact that the facility has applied best available techniques including process optimisation, thus leading to relatively low pollution per product unit.
In contrast to this, a small facility may emit a low number and/ or amounts of substances although processes are not up-to-date, thus the emissions per product unit are in fact relatively high.
An assessment of possible low environmental standards applied at the facility shall only be done on a case by case study that considers the size of the facility at least.
16. Have the reported emissions been authorised?
Yes. In principle, operators of industrial facilities in Germany have an official permit that limits emissions and waste. Permits are subject to periodic inspection to check compliance. The following laws govern the licensing of facilities in Germany:
- the Federal Immission Control Act and related ordinances put a cap on emissions to air,
- the Federal Water Act, 16 federal states water laws and the German Waste Water Ordinance with its 57 sector-specific annexes put a cap on waste water discharges into bodies of water, and
- the Closed Cycle Management Act regulates the disposal, recovery or recycling of waste.
These acts provide the basis for allowing the release of pollutants to the air, discharges into waters and waste disposal.
17. Can operators keep some emissions data confidential in Thru.de?
Yes, the competent authorities at federal states level take the decision on an operator's confidentiality request. If permission is granted, data is neither published on Thru.de nor in the European PRTR. All PRTR data reported by operators appears on the website except the data claimed as confidential by the Member State. Whenever information is kept confidential by a Member State in accordance with Article 4 of Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information, the Member State has to indicate separately for each data that has been withheld the reason for doing so. Reasons may include personal data, the operator's name, trade relations, or the protection of other private and public interests, especially if a legal process is pending.
Reasons are documented in Thru.de. (see Section 2 Para 2 SchadRegProtAG).
18. I cannot find a facility that I know on Thru.de. Why?
Thru.de currently has emissions data of some 5,000 of approx. 20,000 facilities in Germany. The reporting obligations determine the number of facilities to be found in a certain year. For details, please see Annex I and II of the E-PRTR Regulation.
For inquiries, please use the contact page.
19. What happens if a facility does not comply with its reporting obligations?
Once a facility becomes subject to reporting requirements in accordance with the E-PRTR Regulation, it must submit relevant information to its competent authority. If it fails to do so, sanctions will be imposed as stated in Section 7 of the German PRTR Act.
20. Is there a difference between the CO2 emissions which facilities report under the E-PRTR Regulation and those reported in emissions trading?
Yes, with one slight distinction.
In case of facilities reporting on identical activities to both the Emissions Trading Regulations and the E-PRTR, the annual amounts of pollutants should be identical in both cases. On the other hand, the total annual amounts of pollutants resulting from the E-PRTR-activity should equal the data reported under the ETS plus the contribution from the remaining sources in those cases, where only certain processes that are subject to the E-PRTR regulation also fall under the Emissions Trading Regulations.
CO2 emissions reported in Thru.de result from combustion processes of fossil fuels and of biomass.
Since CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are a central climate policy issue, Thru.de also reports separately on CO2 emissions from fossil fuel sources only.
21. Is the additional reporting of „CO2 non-biogen“ (respectively “fossil emission”) a mandatory or voluntary report for the operator?
In Thru.de, operators have to report on the total quantity of CO2-emission (kg/y; thus including biomass). Additionally, they can report voluntarily and in a separate field on „CO2-emission non-biogen (kg/y)“.
Further information can be found in the so-called “Experten-WIKI”, see Arbeitshilfe zu CO2 aus Biomasse im PRTR (in German only).
22. Are there PRTRs in other countries?
Yes, other countries also have PRTRs.
The USA have the longest standing national PRTR. It is called the Toxics Release Inventory or TRI and was established in 1986. For a selection of European and international PRTRs please go to Links - PRTR international.
23. What environmental aspects are not included in Thru.de?
The data in Thru.de is based on the guidelines of the European E-PRTR Regulation. The Regulation exactly determines which type of facility must report which pollutant emissions.
This also means that the scope of the Regulation neither covers all facilities nor all emissions. For example, Thru.de does not have information about
- Nuclear power stations. They are not part of the industries from the Energy Sector as listed in the E-PRTR Regulation (see also Question 24);
- Noise. The PRTR Regulation does not list noise as a pollutant. Therefore, there are no noise emissions reporting requirements for any facility;
- the use of plant protection agents in the context of good professional practice;
- discharges of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
24. Why does Thru.de not include nuclear power stations?
There are reasons for this:
Thru.de only holds information on facilities undertaking one or more of the industrial activities specified in Annex I of Regulation (EC) No 166/2006. The energy sector, for instance, includes “Thermal power stations and other combustion facilities", which by definition excludes nuclear power stations. These do not use “fuel” to generate heat, but electricity. According to Annex II of the regulation, possibly released process radiant heat is not defined as pollutant.
25. How and in which formats can PRTR data be downloaded?
All documents available on Thru.de can be downloaded from the Downloads page. The entire database is also available as SQLite database together with a short guidance document.
Tables as results of 'search', ' proximity search' and 'emissions in short' can be downloaded as pdf and Excel file.