Poland provides a wealth of opportunity for UK environmental business

There is considerable opportunity in Poland for UK environmental businesses, but companies have to be warned that with firms from other countries, particularly Germany, having already been in the country for five years, the UK is behind in the market.

According to speakers at the Joint Environmental Markets Unit (JEMU) seminar at the UK’s largest environmental trade fair, ET2001, on 6 June, the environmental market in Poland is already sophisticated and price sensitive, but with the needs of the country to comply with European Union legislation in order to achieve accession, there is still considerable possibility for UK companies, particularly with regards to providing services. “In Poland, the environment is a key issue for accession,” said Dr John Butson of Echotech Research and Consulting Ltd. “The environment is something which could delay accession to the European Union.”

The strengths which UK companies can offer to the environmental market in Poland include technology, innovation, experience and flexibility. However, UK companies also have a number of weaknesses which need to be addressed in order to be fully competitive, namely, late entry into the market, lack of market knowledge and local contacts, and high costs.

Some of the key environmental issues in Poland at the moment is the southern heavily industrial region of Silesia, known as the ‘black triangle’, which has a considerable amount of pollution problems; eutrophication of the Baltic; pollution of the Odra and Vistula rivers; waste disposal, particularly with the non-compliance of many of the 1861 landfills; low water and sewage connection rates; and industrial pollution and contaminated land. However, there is a strong ‘polluter pays’ principle, with companies paying fees for using environemental resources, such as disposing of waste into landfills, or discharge of sewage, and fines for illegal pollution.

The lack of investment for environmental projects is a key issue in Poland, with a 1999 study predicting that 35 billion Euros (£21 billion) is required for the country to achieve accession compliance. Other problems that need to be addressed include the identification of projects, with the most important ones receiving funding first – rather than the current ‘first come first served’ basis; and structural/institutional issues, such as those arising from the newness of the local authorities, which formed in 1999.

Opportunities that are available to UK companies occur in a number of environmental sectors, such as for compliance with the EU’s Urban Waste Water, Landfill, and IPPC directives; as well as for sewage sludge disposal – a problem which will increase with increased water treatment; landfill gas; and environmental monitoring. “There is so much to be done,” said Adam Robinski, Export Promoter at Poland Trade Partners. “The clock is ticking, the time to enter is now.”

Among the tips offered by the JEMU seminar for companies wishing to take advantage of the opportunities that Poland offers, is that product information must be prepared in Polish. Despite the fact that English is widely spoken in the country, companies should not presume that their prospective customers are able to.

Companies seriously contemplating entering the market in Poland can attend the Poleko conference in Poznan, Poland, 20-23 November this year, further information for which can be obtained from Trade Partners UK. Information can also be obtained through the Programme Arranging Service at the Polish Embassy.

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