European business briefs: Bulgarian incinerator, French plutonium, Irish regeneration, Claim on North Pole, Excess packaging concerns

A demonstration against a highly controversial hazardous waste incinerator project took place in Sofia this week at the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) and the EU Commission Delegation to Bulgaria. Over 50 concerned residents travelled 250 kilometres from their villages to express once again their opposition to the National Hazardous Waste Treatment Centre project which is being proposed for construction in the central Bulgarian region of Stara Zagora. Pressure on local campaigners was applied after the public hearings, with local newspapers stating: "If Bulgaria does not start the construction of the National Hazardous Waste Treatment Centre, the country will not be accepted in the EU."

A heavily guarded convoy of vehicles believed to be transporting the highly controversial US weapons-grade plutonium left a plant in northern France yesterday for a recycling factory 660 miles southeast. French nuclear energy firm Areva, who will recycle the plutonium into nuclear fuel, declined to confirm the content of the convoy. Environmentalists are concerned about the safety of the shipment, which arrived in France from the US after a journey of over two weeks, and they fear it could become a potential terrorist target.

Irish Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government Dick Roche this week announced his decision to allocate a further €280,000 towards urban and village renewal projects in 2004. This is in addition to the €11 million made available to the programme in March for regeneration works across the country.

The Science Ministry in Denmark has stated its intentions to claim the North Pole and hunt for oil in high Arctic regions that might become more accessible due to the effects of global warming. The country has announced that it would send an expedition to try to prove the seabed beneath the Pole was a natural continuation of Greenland, the world’s biggest island and a Danish territory whose northern tip is just 450 miles from the Pole.

And finally, Minister Dick Roche has also called on producers to pay greater attention to tackling the excess packaging of products placed on the Irish market. Speaking at the Repak Annual Awards ceremony this week, he stated: “Despite the in-built incentive favouring waste prevention under the existing Repak scheme I feel that greater efforts need to be made by producers in reducing the vast amounts of unnecessary packaging that’s put on the market currently. I would urge producers to look at this issue to see what further incentive schemes might be required to shift the balance toward waste prevention.”

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