Brussels, 17 July 2002
The European Commission demonstrated what it is doing to encourage sustainable industrial production, clean technologies and recycling with the presentation of various EU funded projects on 16 July.
Opening the event, EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: 'Ten years after Rio, and a few weeks before the Johannesburg world summit, the following question is still very topical: How can we ensure the material well being and the quality of life of present populations and future generations? [...] The answer lies essentially in technology. Clean technologies and recycling processes will be essential in making progress towards sustainable development.'
Mr Busquin estimated that 30 per cent of the Fifth Framework programme (FP5) was dedicated to clean technologies, and pledged that this trend will continue in the Sixth Framework programme (FP6).
The Commissioner also highlighted the fact that it can take many years before concrete results from research efforts can be seen, but pointed to the world's first zinc oxide ore processing plant, which opened this year in South Africa, and was the result of a project funded 10 years ago under the Raw materials programme.
Jacques Halut, a chemical engineer from France's National high school of chemistry presented the TOZELIWA project, funded under FP5's Growth programme. The project aimed to develop techniques for cleaning up waste from metal plating and surface treatment plants while limiting this pollution in the first place.
Studies by the French Ministry of the environment suggest that the European plating industry is responsible for 40 per cent of the toxic heavy metal contamination in natural water.
The three year project was launched in 2001 and involves 12 partners from four EU countries. The consortium is looking at combinations of evaporation and nanofiltration or reverse osmosis as a means of eliminating degradation products prior to recycling.
While confident that the project will enable plating shops to operate without discharging liquid waste, without having to clean up using a physico chemical water treatment plant and without using waste reduction technologies that consume chemicals, Mr Halut admits that there are obstacles to bringing the new technology to the market. Industry does not really want to get involved as it isn't familiar with the new machinery, said Mr Halut. This means that demand remains low and prices high. The consortium is however beginning to demonstrate to workshops that they will benefit, he said.
Maria Janssen presented the achievements of the PROGRES network, a thematic network established under the Brite Euram III programme in 1998. The network acts as a discussion forum for issues relating to the use of glassy combustion residues in novel products.
Every year electric power generation and waste incineration in the EU produces around 60 million tonnes of glassy combustion residues. Some of this is reused, but proportions vary from 15 to 100 per cent in different countries. Over the last 40 years, the cement industry has become the only major user of combustion residues, but the PROGRES network set out to develop new applications.
New applications include inert and functional fillers, absorbents, construction materials, zeolite minerals and additives for the immobilisation of pollutants.
The main barrier to commercialisation is the customer perception of the material as waste, said Dr Janssen. 'Evidently we have more work to do in identifying the barriers to acceptance. There is a need to clearly specify the conditions for the commercial acceptance of combustion residues as substitutes for costly and scarce primary materials,' she said.
A consortium of 28 partners from 10 countries has been working on ECOLIFE (closing the loop of electr(on)ic products and domestic appliances). From product planning to end of life technologies) since 1998. This thematic network was created with the objective of coordinating European, national and regional research activities from the design of electrical and electronic equipment to end of life treatment.
The network is driven by forthcoming European legislation on the reduction of electronic waste and a reduction in the use of chromium and other heavy metals, said Bernd Kopacek from the Austrian society for systems engineering and automation.
The network focuses on four key aspects: ecodesign, closing the cycle, end of life and state of the art continuous updating. The network has already compiled a best practice guide for ecodesign, covering numerous case studies. An example of ecodesign is the Motorola green phone, which is made with lead free solder, and uses recycled plastic and an energy efficient charger.
The key factor to the success of the approach will be finding alternative uses for used components, said Dr Kopacek, for example the use of a memory chip from a laptop for a car or toy.
Finally Edorta Larrauri presented the first virtual European recycling centre (VERC), which had its kick off meeting on 1 July 2002. The virtual centre was conceived as an information and solution provider for industry, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), researchers, policy makers and other interested bodies. Running the network are 17 partners from 10 European countries.
For further information on the projects, please contact: