Process started: You are kindly invited to take part in the process of drafting the report on the implementation of the PRTR Protocol in Germany

Currently we are drafting the report on the implementation of the international PRTR-Protocol and register in Germany. The protocol requires contracting parties to report on the national implementation of the register. The Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention / Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on PRTRs (30 June - 04 July 2014), will evaluate and document the state of the art of implementation by all parties.

Reports have to be submitted to the UNECE secretariat by mid December 2013.  The UNECE secretariat will compile all reports and draft a synthesis report to be presented at the Meeting of the Parties to be held in Maastricht, the Netherlands.

How can you participate in this process

The drafting of the report on the implementation of the international PRTR-Protocol and register in Germany is a transparent process involving the public. The first draft of the implementation report is available for comments at first draft of the implementation report, deadline 24 November 2013. The draft contains answers to the questions requested including background information.

You may submit your comments to mail(at) All comments will be considered for the final version of the report. We are looking forward to your contribution. 

Under Downloads, you will find the decision (in EN and DE) on the implementation report released during the first PRTR-Conference held in 2010. The questions about the legal and practical implementation process are listed in the Annex of the decision.

Background information

The PRTR-Protocol requires contracting parties (signatories) to establish such registers for public access. 

The current register at provides air emissions data, pollution amount and waste amount of about 5.000 industrial facilities in Germany for the years 2007-2011. Operators of facilities have the obligation to report the releases of pollutants and the amount of waste, where these exceed certain threshold values specified in the PRTR protocol.


 October 2013

To top

Ammonia from intensive poultry production

Agriculture is the source of 94 per cent of ammonia emissions in Germany. The agriculture sector includes branches of business such as porker production, dairy farming or crop production and is accountable for a number of different environmental impacts. The most serious issue with ammonia in the environment is that it causes acidification and over-fertilisation of sensitive habitats such as forests, bodies of water or wetlands. Ammonia is formed during the decomposition of animal excretions (excrement and urine). Ammonia is present mainly in livestock housing and on fields that are fertilised with manure and slurry. A number of different measures have been taken to reduce ammonia emissions in livestock farming. In pig farming, protein-adapted feed in particular has led to lower ammonia emissions; similar results have been achieved in poultry farming through manure drying.
In 2010 the Federal Government established a threshold value for ammonia emissions of 550 kilotonnes per year. For some agriculture enterprises an ammonia threshold has been set at ten tonnes per year. Enterprises must report any exceedances of this level. This applies to e.g. farms that have a minimum capacity of 40,000 for poultry, a minimum of 2,000 (over 30 kilogrammes) for porkers or a minimum of 750 pigsties for sows. If a farm exceeds the emissions threshold of a pollutant, this information is disclosed on

More than 200 exceedances in 2010

In 2010 there were 203 farms in intensive poultry production alone which exceeded the threshold value for ammonia. That figure has hovered at around 200 for the last three years. The vast majority of the farms (85) are in Lower Saxony, followed by Saxony-Anhalt (30), Bavaria (17), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (15), Saxony (14), Brandenburg (12) and Thuringia (11). The map below clearly shows the concentration of these farms in the northwest region of Lower Saxony, in Saxony-Anhalt – including northwestern Saxony – and in eastern Bavaria. The distribution of farms is more balanced in the other federal states.

The map covers all poultry farms that release an annual volume of more than ten tonnes of ammonia to the air, which reached a total of 6,056.6 tonnes in 2010. The different shading of the dots on the map reflects the relative scale of the ammonia emissions from the facility in 2010. Most of the poultry farms (106) release between ten and twenty tonnes of ammonia per year. Another 79 have emissions of between 20 and 50 tonnes each per year. There are only nine farms with emissions of 50 - 100 tonnes and another nine with more than 100 tonnes.


March 2013

Mercury from industrial facilities in Germany

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic for ecosystems, animal life and humans. Methylmercury has the highest toxicity and bioaccumulates in fish and shellfish in particular. This is also how it enters our food chain.

Although mercury is released from natural sources such as volcanoes, it is also formed in industrial processes, particularly during the burning of fossil fuels such as coal for the production of energy. These gaseous emissions are airborne and are spread across international borders. Since many new coal power plants are expected to be built worldwide, a continued increase of mercury emissions in the next decades is likely. In addition, mercury is present in many different products. It is also used in gold mining, in the chlor-alkali industry to manufacture essential chemicals and in compact fluorescent lamps.

The danger associated with mercury came to light through Minamata disease, named after the Japanese city where thousands of people suffered chronic mercury poisoning in the 1950s and even caused death in some cases. At the time, a chemical factory was releasing mercury in its wastewater into the Yatsushiro Sea. The methylmercury bioaccumulated in the local population's food and caused the poisoning. The damaging effects of mercury on human health have been undisputed ever since.

The EU has focussed attention on the mercury problem for a long time. It launched a Mercury Strategy in 2005 to limit releases of mercury to the environment. However, the EU has not yet established a critical limit for mercury releases from power plants.

The United Nations agreed a Convention to limit worldwide emissions and releases of mercury on 19 January 2013. Its aims include the reduction of global emissions from power plants and the metal industry.
The mercury volumes published in are contained in PRTR Reports: facilities that have mercury emissions to the air of more than ten kilogrammes per year and which release more than one kilogramme per year to water, wastewater or to soil must submit such a report.


Die Abbildung zeigt ein Säulendiagramm. Jede Säule stellt die Quecksilbermengen in den Jahren 2007 bis 2010, bestehend aus Ihren Anteilen für die Umweltkompartimente Luft, Wasser und Abwasser dar.
Abb. 1: Jahresmengen von Quecksilber

The number of facilities that exceeded the mercury threshold declined slightly from 193 to 179 in 2007 - 2009, followed by an increase to 185 facilities in 2010. This trend is also reflected in total amounts (see Fig. 1). Mercury emissions to air are by far the greatest amounts, with releases in wastewater to external wastewater treatment plants and discharges to bodies of water lagging far behind. Deposits onto soil have not yet been reported by any facility. Most of the mercury that is released in wastewater to external wastewater treatment plants is extracted from the wastewater at the plant. The mercury is therefore not released to bodies of water but is instead disposed of with sewage sludge. This is why the sum of the different amounts does not equal total amount for Germany. 

The distribution of mercury emission amounts (to air, wastewater and water) across various sectors (see Fig. 2) shows that the energy sector accounts for the greatest share (65 per cent). The metal industry follows with 14%, the minerals processing industry with 8%, the chemical industry (7%), and waste and wastewater management (5%). The paper and wood industry's share of one per cent is the lowest. Within the energy sector the 51 power plants represented are by far the main sources of emissions. These power plants are almost exclusively fired with hard coal or lignite. The metal industry mainly includes facilities (8) that manufacture pig iron or steel.

Die Abbildung zeigt die Anteile der verschiedenen Industriebranchen an den Quecksilbermengen, die in Luft oder Wasser freigesetzt werden oder mit dem Abwasser in externe Kläranlagen verbracht werden. Der Balken ist entsprechend der Anteile der Branchen u
Abb. 2: Branchenanteile der Quecksilbermengen

The regional distribution of the facilities in Figure 3 also reflects the distribution across industry sectors. The facilities with the highest mercury emissions to air are in central Germany, in the Lausitz and Rhine coal fields, and all are power plants. The concentration of facilities in the Ruhr area is amplified by the many metalworking facilities that are also located there.  

DIe Abbildung zeigt eine Deutschlandkarte, in der alle Standorte von Industriebetrieben markiert sind, an denen Betriebe mit Quecksilber mengen in Luft, Wasser oder Abwasser stehen. Die Betriebe sind dabei in 4 Klassen eingeteilt: 10 bis 100 kilogramm pro
Abb. 3: Quecksilbermengen von Betrieben in Deutschland

The five facilities with the highest volume of mercury emissions (TOP 5, Table 1) are located in Saxony (SN), Brandenburg (BB), North Rhine-Westphalia (NW) and Lower Saxony (NI). The TOP 5 facilities, with the exception of Weser-Metall, release mercury to air. These four facilities are in the energy sector and are all lignite-fired power plants. Weser-Metall is the only facility in the TOP 5 in the metal industry. Its only mercury releases are in wastewater to external wastewater treatment plants. Their mercury figures have declined significantly since 2008.


Table 1: Facilities with the highest mercury volumes (kg/a)


Vattenfall Lippendorf

Böhlen (SN)






Vattenfall Jänschwalde

Peitz (BB)






RWE Niederaußem

Bergheim (NW)







Nordenham (NI)

Metal industry





RWE Weisweiler

Eschweiler (NW)







What is particularly striking is the strong increase in emissions at the Vattenfall power plant Lippendorf in Böhlen since 2010. Starting in 2009 its reported emissions have been nearly twice as high as those of the second highest polluter, and the second highest polluting facility in 2010 is the largest lignite power plant in Germany: the Vattenfall power plant Jänschwalde in Peitz has an installed capacity of 3,000 megawatts. According to its operator, technical mitigation measures have in the meantime been implemented at the power plant Lippendorf in Böhlen, and they thereby reduced the annual load in 2011 to levels below those in 2008.

The role that coal power plants play in the mercury strategy was discussed in a presentation and paper at the 44th Colloquium of Power Plant Technology on 23-24 October 2012 in Dresden. The paper can be downloaded here.

The Federal Environment Agency carried out a representative survey to determine mercury exposure in adults and children in Germany by taking samples from the Environmental Specimen Bank of the Federal Government. To read more about this pan-European survey see the press release on the Federal Environment Agency website.

In addition to the data in, you can find more detailed information about mercury on the website of the Environmental Specimen Bank.

You can listen to a radio interview by the Federal Environment Agency about the global mercury situation here.


February 2013

How many facilities does cover?

The number of facilities rose from 4,448 in 2007 to 4,947 in 2010. Only facilities in certain sectors of industry which exceed a specified production volume or level of performance are required to report their pollutant releases and waste amounts on They must only report the types of waste and pollutants when they exceed the respective, established threshold levels..

Das Bild zeigt ein Balkendiagramm. Die Höhe der Balken stellt die Anzahl der Betriebe in für die Berichtsjahre 2007 bis 2010 dar. Die Anzahl nimmt dabei von 4448 auf 4947 zu.

The majority of facilities in – some two-thirds – dispose of more than two tonnes of hazardous waste per year. Some 30% dispose of 2,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste per year. A somewhat smaller proportion registers air pollution. Water pollution and discharges through wastewater (e.g. to municipal wastewater treatment plants) are reported by about 10% of the facilities. The number of facilities reporting water pollution is dropping slowly, whereas the number with pollutant discharges in wastewater seems to be on the rise. The share of facilities with pollutant inputs to soil is nominal at a mere 0.1%. Most of the facilities can be classified into more than one category, e.g. both 'hazardous waste' and 'air pollution'. As a result, the sum of the per cent figures shown here is not 100% but rather higher.

Die Grafik zeigt ein Liniendiagramm, in dem die Anzahl der Betriebe, die für die einzelnen Kompartimente  (Abfall gefährlich, Abfall ungefährlich, Freisetzung Luft, Freisetzung Wasser, Verbringung mit dem Abwasser und Freisetzung Boden) Daten angegeben

The ten pollutants with the largest volumes of inputs to the environment (air, soil, water, wastewater) make up our "Top 10 Pollutants". The figure for 2010 clearly shows that a 'major polluter' can be identified for most of these pollutants. 'Major polluter' refers to a sector of industry whose share of the pollution reported in is particularly high.

The major polluter by far for carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) is the energy industry. The second highest-ranking chlorides are caused in almost equal part by the chemical industry and the minerals processing industry, followed by waste and wastewater management (municipal wastewater treatment plants in particular). It should be noted that total chloride volumes owe to discharges into water, inputs to soil as well as to releases in wastewater.

The major polluter for carbon monoxide emissions (CO) is the metalworking industry. The minerals processing industry – and coal mining in particular – is the major polluter for methane emissions, closely followed by waste and wastewater management and landfills in particular. Nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide emissions, similarly to CO2, originate mainly in the energy industry, although their lead over the next closest sectors is much narrower.

The main sources of total organic carbon (TOC) are the chemical industry, the food industry, and the paper and wood industry. However, waste and wastewater management, especially wastewater treatment plants, were also responsible for a large share of TOC volumes. Emissions to water and discharges in wastewater are grouped together in this graph. Wastewater treatment facilities are also the major polluters for total nitrogen.

The sector "Other industries" had the largest share of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions. This sector includes facilities where surfaces are coated with solvents, such as automobile manufacturers and paint shops in particular. Intensive livestock production is the clear leader in ammonia emissions (NH3). The chemical and minerals processing industries represent smaller shares.

Das Bild zeigt die Schadstoffe mit den größten Mengen in Thrude sowie die dazugehörigen Branchen. Hauptverursacher sind gut zu erkennen und im Text genauer erläutert

The Top 10 List focuses on pollutants of which the various industries emit especially high volumes to the environment. However, it also pays to research for pollutants reported in very small amounts. These are often very problematic substances such as dioxins and furans, PCB as well as heavy metals such as mercury or cadmium, which can be hazardous to the environment in even the smallest of concentrations.


December 2012

European PRTR activated in November 2009

Similarly to Germany, the EU also activated its own Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR). On 9 November 2009 the EU launched open online access at to information about the pollutant loads and waste volumes of more than 24,000 industrial facilities in the 27 EU Member States, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The same 91 pollutants and 65 sectors of industry in the German PRTR are reported in the E-PRTR (see also here).         
Read the EU Press release and a press release by the European Environment Agency about the launch of the E-PRTR.

PRTR Protocol enters into force in October 2009!

The PRTR Protocol entered into force on 8 October 2009, 90 days after deposit of the 16th instrument of ratification by France on 10 July 2009. See here for the current Status of ratification, the ratification chart and the UNECE Press Release.

Ratification of the PRTR Protocol commits Protocol countries to establish and operate a national Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) in accordance with the requirements of the PRTR Protocol. Germany ratified the PRTR Protocol in August 2007. The German PRTR was activated and went online on 3 June 2009. The EU has also ratified the PRTR Protocol and thereby also committed to set up a European register (E-PRTR). The EU Member States had to report their PRTR data to the EU by 30 June 2009. The EU Register was launched on 9 November 2009.

Opening ceremony launches German PRTR on 3 June 2009 in Berlin

The German PRTR was activated online on 3 June 2009. Parliamentary State Secretary Michael Müller of the Federal Ministry of Environment, State Secretary Dr. Hans-Bernhard Beus of the Federal Ministry of the Interior acting as Federal Government Commissioner for Information Technology, and Vice-President Thomas Holzmann of the Federal Environment Agency acting as host of the event jointly launched Germany's pollutant release and transfer register.
The act represents a big step made towards more transparency in environmental information. Anybody and everybody can now access free information online about pollutant emissions and the amounts of waste disposed of in their vicinity. At the same time the use of process chains by facilities and quality assurance by competent authorities will help to cut red tape.
The German PRTR registered more than 50,000 hits in the first two weeks after its activation. You can download the programme of the opening ceremony here.

Dr. Holzmann, parlamentarischer Staatssekretär Müller und Staatssekretär Dr. Beus beim gemeinsamen Knopfdruck zur Freischaltung des deutschen PRTR am 3.6.09

Dr. Holzmann, Parliamentary State Secretary Müller and State Secretary Dr. Beus at the collective touch of the button to launch the German PRTR *

Prämierung der Studierenden von Prof. Christ und Frau Hußlein der Hochschule Anhalt, die am PRTR-Design-Wettbewerb teilgenommen haben, durch Frau Dr. Markard (UBA) am 3.6.09.

Prize award ceremony for students of Prof. Christ and Ms Hußlein of the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, contestants in the PRTR design contest, handed over by Dr. Markard (UBA)*

PRTR zum selbst Ausprobieren an einem der 3 Demostände während der Feier.

... and finally: hands-on testing of PRTR at one of three demonstration stands at the event *

*  © 2009 Eberhard Schorr