Pollutant Information: Non Methane VOC 

About Non Methane VOC

Category: Air pollutants

Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) are organic compounds, which differ widely in their chemical composition. These organic compounds are often grouped under the NMVOC label as the majority display similar behaviour in the atmosphere. NMVOCs are emitted to air as combustion products, as vapour arising from petrol and solvent use and from numerous other sources. Interest in NMVOC emissions has grown as their role in the photochemical production of ozone has been appreciated. The diversity of processes which emit NMVOCs is huge, covering not only many branches of industry, but also transport, agriculture and domestic sources. The two largest sources of 2014 NMVOC emissions are the use of solvents and other product use (43% of 2014 emissions) and extraction and distribution of fossil fuels (17% of 2014 emissions). Only 14% of the NMVOC emissions arise from combustion sources, the most significant of which is residential combustion. Natural emissions of NMVOCs are also reported, but are not included in the UK emission total, in accordance with UNECE guidelines. These natural sources are primarily emissions from forests. The NMVOC emission time series, presented in the plot below, shows an increase in emissions between 1970 and 1990 with minor peaks in 1973 and 1979, followed by a steady reduction in emissions during the 1990 and 2000s. The latter is largely a reflection of the increasingly stringent emission limits across a range of sectors. The UK is currently on track to meet the Gothenburg Protocol target in 2020, with emissions having fallen by 70% since 1990. Emissions will need to be reduced by a further 6% of the 2014 emission total to meet this 2020 target.

» View and Download Non Methane VOC emission summary data

» View Non Methane VOC mapping data

Time series graph


Notable events

Start year End year Sector Information Impact
1993 1993 Agriculture Field burning of agricultural waste stopped after 1993. Decrease in emissions
1999 2011 Production Processes Tightening emission controls for the chemical industry under IPPC enforced by the Environment Agency and Defra. Decrease in emissions
1999 2001 Solvent & Other product use Introduction of the Solvents directive Decrease in emissions
2004 2006 Solvent & Other product use Reduction in solvent content of paints and other products (Solvents and Deco Paints Directives) Decrease in emissions
1990 1999 Transport Introduction of petrol cars with early 3-way catalysts. Decrease in emissions
1992 2011 Transport Stricter Euro I - V emission regulations come in on trucks and buses offsets increasing vehicle km. Impact takes time to bite as only new vehicles need to meet standards. Decrease in emissions
1992 2014 Transport Stricter Euro I - 5 emission regulations come in for cars offsets increasing vehicle km. Impact takes time to bite as only new vehicles need to meet standards. Decrease in emissions
1990 2010 Transport Switching from petrol to diesel cars Decrease in emissions