More than one hundred innovative new environmental projects get the green light

The European Commission has decided to co-fund 103 new projects across the Community, providing one third of the total €180 million (£112 million) budget which are all targeted at priority environmental areas.

The EC funding comes from its LIFE-Environment programme which encourages projects contributing to the following EU environmental priorities: the integration of environmental considerations into land use development and planning; promotion of sustainable management of water resources; prevention, recycling and management of waste; minimisation of the environmental impact of economic activity and integrated product policy.

Among the 103 projects, those relating to clean technologies, integrated environmental management, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable tourism predominate both in number and value and are spread throughout 14 of the EU’s 15 members. These projects have used up less than 10% of LIFE’s funding for the 2000-2004 period and the Commission expects to reap their benefits for improving the implementation of EU environmental policies in two to five years time.

Spain, Italy and Germany have attracted EC funding for the greatest number of projects. The German projects are largely concerned with innovation and include developing a new solution for the recycling of the sand fraction of demolition waste, which constitutes as much as 30% of the total. The project will show that with a proper source selection and wet processing using a jig the demolition sand can be generally used as an aggregate for concrete. Another project will demonstrate the feasibility of a new incineration device which converts organic waste liquids into pure oxygen, instead of air, using a low-emission, high energy-recovery method of decomposing water polluting and hazardous organic compounds into industrial effluents.

Spain has attracted a large chunk of the funding for several innovative projects concerned with waste management and tourism. A comprehensive and exportable European tourist management model will be developed and the tourist island of Lanzarote will receive help in developing an eco-tax to help limit the impact of human pressure. Spain’s Balearic Islands have already approved such a measure (see related story), and Lanzarote would be the first of the Canary Islands to do so. For the first time, pesticide bottles in the intensively-farmed region of Almería, where there are 40,000 hectares of greenhouses using concentrations 200 times higher than in conventional agriculture, will be collected and recycled. Another project will set up an operational system to make collection of rice straw, which is currently burnt after harvest, and the mud dumped on tips, viable. The fishing industry will also receive important help for recycling its waste with collection points set up.

In the UK, a pan-European method for measuring and encouraging sustainable development in Europe’s cities will be created and tested in eight cities (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Birmingham, Leipzig, Malmö, Nottingham, The Hague, Venice and Vienna). The partner cities will implement action programmes to achieve improvements in sustainable urban development performance of 10 to 25% in all cities. Another project will test and support infrastructure and related initiatives to reduce the volume of electronic office equipment waste in a large urban area. It will focus on equipment from central London businesses re-used by the communities in neighbouring disadvantaged areas with the aim of diverting an average annual 7,000 items of IT and other office equipment waste from landfill or incineration, redistributing these items to the voluntary and community sectors.

Some of the most environmentally groundbreaking projects will be in the Netherlands where innovations include separate drainage of rainwater from paved areas and roofs directly into surface water courses; use of rainwater in a ‘grey water system’ for toilet flushing, car washing and fire fighting, and; the demonstration of a slow and controlled pumping technique for slow release of contamination from sites, in combination with a groundwater diversion system to stop the groundwater flow on ‘hotspots’.

Potentially important Swedish projects include the design and construction of a demonstration plant which completely recovers high value protein and energy-containing fats from dairy wastewater by treating and re-using residues, and recovering heat energy from the wastewater and technologies to deal with two environmental problems caused by metalworking. In the first – a dry method – the components to be worked are cooled and lubricated using a carbon dioxide and vegetable oil vapour, resulting in easier treatment and disposal of the waste compared to existing cooling methods. In the second project, environmentally friendly and recyclable oil is used, with use of harmful preservatives reduced through filtration.

France will receive assistance in reducing the volume of waste dumped in the sea, through a new system to generate a specific and optimised organisation of all waste management agents of ports and for a project developing an individual or semi-collective wastewater treatment system for both small seasonal and permanent communities in sensitive coastal areas, conserving water resources by using wastewater for irrigation. The existing car-free day initiative in some EU states will be extended through France.

In Austria, projects include a plan to encourage people to walk or cycle for short journeys in the second city, Graz, while in Vienna, a new logistics centre for the cost-effective collection, refining, processing, packing and shipping of bio fuels, will improve the competitiveness of biomass as compared to fossil fuels.

Other important projects include encouraging olive oil mill waste to be recovered by natural antioxidant recovery and organic fertiliser production in Greece and the development and implementation of a model for recovery and recycling of IT equipment in the Dublin region of Ireland.

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