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News: February 2016

LIFE wastewater project wins sustainability prize 

Photo: LIFE09 NAT/NL/000418

29 February 2016 Spain's Murcia region has awarded a prestigious sustainability prize to WaterReuse (LIFE12 ENV/ES/000184), a LIFE environmental project led by a private-sector chemicals business, Destilerías Muñoz Gálvez. The award reflects the project's contribution to reducing water consumption and cleaning up industrial wastewater for reuse. 

Destilerías Muñoz Gálvez - one of the winners of the Murcia regional government’s 8th Regional Sustainable Development Awards in the eco-efficiency category - is the coordinator of the two-year, €1.6 million LIFE project that concluded in September 2015. Half of the project budget was provided by LIFE, the EU’s flagship environmental programme. 

The jury of environmental experts awarding the prize highlighted the project’s work to remove pollutants in wastewater from chemical processes, and to reuse 95 per cent of that wastewater.

WaterReuse deployed membrane filtration and electrochemical oxidation technologies, with energy supplied by solar panels, to remove suspended solids in the wastewater from the company’s operations.

The lessons learned from the project’s success are now being shared with other companies using high levels of water for their industrial processes, enabling permanent reductions not only in water consumption and pollution, but in energy too. The chemical sector accounts for almost a third of the water used by manufacturing industries.

WaterReuse used 34 per cent less energy than a standard wastewater plant to clean up the effluent from the company’s production, resulting in a 39 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions.

Developing this system helped the company to reduce its operating costs for water, chemicals, energy and sludge disposal by two-thirds, and it eliminated the production of 150 tonnes of industrial sludge which would otherwise have needed to be disposed of. Investing in WaterReuse was also considerably more advantageous than building an industrial-scale treatment system.

The hydrogen by-product of WaterReuse was put to good use, generating an additional 37,000 kWh of clean energy which could be fed back into the project. The project was conceived from the necessity to conserve water resources in Murcia, in southern Spain. As across much of the European Union, water resources in Murcia are under growing pressure. It's expected that by 2030, demand for water from homes and businesses in Europe will exceed supply by 40 per cent.

For more information about the WaterReuse project, visit its website:  

LIFE platform meeting on restoration of sand dune habitats

Photo: LIFE09 NAT/NL/000418

26 February 2016 LIFE will hold a platform meeting and networking event on the restoration of coastal and inland dune habitats in Zandvoort, Netherlands, from 15 to 17 June.

The platform will, for the first time, bring together projects focusing on the restoration of these habitats ahead of the next Atlantic and Boreal Seminars for the Natura 2000 Biogeographical Process. The experience of LIFE projects in the restoration of coastal and inland dune habitats will make an important contribution to the background documents for the seminars.

A key element of the Biogeographical Process is ongoing networking and the exchange of knowledge and best practices amongst those involved in managing Natura 2000 network sites, with the aim of promoting synergies amongst Member States that will help them achieve the targets the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. Best practices demonstrated by LIFE projects in the management of dune habitat types and key species have a valuable role to play.

The main aim of the platform meeting will be to extract and compile the contributions of the LIFE programme to the Process, in order to encourage the creation of expert networks and to bring about coordinated regional actions. The results and recommendations of the meeting will be widely disseminated to relevant Member State authorities, experts and NGOs. They will also be made available on the Natura 2000 Communication Platform , as well as via the LIFE website.

The LIFE Unit and Nature Unit of DG Environment are organising the event, with the support of the Neemo external monitoring team and ECNC-European Centre for Nature Conservation. The platform meeting will be hosted by the LIFE Nature projects Dutch Dune Revival (LIFE09NAT/NL/000418) and Amsterdam Dunes: Source for Nature (LIFE11NAT/NL/000776) and will take place in the Dutch coastal town of Zandvoort. The three-day event will include presentations, working group sessions and field trips. Themes will include:

    • Sharing best practice in the rejuvenation of active dune processes and raising awareness of the value of open and bare sand habitats;
    • Innovative approaches to the management of semi-fixed dune mosaics in inland and coastal dune systems;
    • Tackling the problems of invasive alien species and the need for early-warning systems;
    • Highlighting the ecosystem services values of dune systems;
    • Confirming the next steps for networking, research priorities and the exchange of knowledge.

To register your interest please contact John Houston

First bearded vulture eggs laid for 60 years in Bulgaria

Photo:LIFE08 NAT/BG/000278

22 February 2016 The LIFE project Vultures’ Return (LIFE08 NAT/BG/000278) finished last year, but the project team continue to see the fruits of their work. On 7 February 2016 the project beneficiary Green Balkans announced that they had observed the first egg of bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) laid in Bulgaria for over 60 years.*

“The egg was laid in our Wildlife Rescue Centre, following eight years of care and attempts to persuade the extremely aggressive female to settle with the male that was chosen for her and after a major reconstruction of the aviary,” explains Project Manager Elena Kmetova.

Green Balkans established its Wildlife Rescue Centre in 1996, with the aim of bringing back species that had gone extinct in Bulgaria. The bearded vulture has always been at the top of its list. In 2007 two bearded vultures arrived from a specialised breeding centre in Austria, as part of the international Bearded Vulture Endangered Species Programme. The original male died soon afterwards. However, the female mated with a second male after eight years together, resulting in the female laying her first egg.
Experts from Bulgarian, Austria and Spain are closely watching the behaviour of the birds through web-cameras mounted in the aviary, and the team at the Wildlife Rescue Centre is ready to intervene if necessary.

Ms Kmetova considers this, “a major milestone in the overall strategy for restoring large European vulture species in the Balkans. This is also an amazing example of international cooperation and captive breeding to help halt the loss of biodiversity on a global scale.“

The Vultures’ Return project worked to restore the populations of three large vulture species in Bulgaria, through conservation measures and measures to increase the institutional capacity for vulture conservation. In June 2015, Green Balkans reported the first birth of a Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) resulting from the LIFE project’s reintroduction programme for this species, in which 32 Griffon vultures were released over 6  years to help restore the bird’s population in Bulgaria.

For further information on vultures in Bulgaria, visit Green Balkans website and the website of the follow-on project Vultures back to LIFE - Bright Future for Black Vulture in Bulgaria (LIFE14 NAT/BG/000649), which focuses on the black vulture (Aegypius monachos).

* Update: on 19 February a second egg was laid, see this news

New tourism guidelines from Slovenian bear project


18 February 2016 The Slovenian project LIFE DINALP BEAR (LIFE13 NAT/SI/000550), which targets the conservation of brown bear (Ursus arctos) populations, has just published new guidelines on responsible tourism practices.

The guidelines were prepared to introduce the concept of the non-consumptive use of bears in tourism in the northern Dinarics and to set specific recommendations for the development of different non-consumptive products.

The guidelines note that “although bears are hunted in many European countries, they are increasingly valued alive in the context of wildlife tourism, and for conservation and educational reasons. The non-consumptive use of bears in tourism takes advantage of the growing need of humans to experience ‘pure’ wildlife and involves recreational activities that don’t ‘use’ bears but value them for their role as a top predator and an integral part of a well-functioning ecosystem. Bear watching and photography are nowadays the most common forms of non-consumptive bear use.”

The LIFE project was set up to establish a more strategic territorial approach to the conservation, management and monitoring of brown bear populations in Slovenia. It is aiming to reduce conflicts with bears and promote better coexistence. The ultimate goal is to encourage the natural expansion of brown bear from the Dinaric Mountains to the Alps.

The project’s guidelines emphasise that “the non-consumptive use of wildlife is changing the landscape of the tourism sector and provides ample opportunities for the effective conservation of endangered species and for the development of alternative sources of revenue for (rural) communities”.

To learn more about the LIFE DINALP BEAR visit the project website.

New LIFE poster on bioenergy

LIFE and bioenergy

17 February 2016 The latest LIFE poster focuses on bioenergy. It shows how LIFE, in a bid to support the EU’s transition to a low-carbon economy and move away from fossil fuels, is instrumental in helping develop innovative technologies that transform biomass resources, such as agricultural residues, organic waste or energy crops, into useful energy carriers such as heating, electricity and transport fuel.

The new bioenergy poster presents four examples of innovative technology:

PROGRASS (LIFE07 ENV/D/000222) focuses on grassland biomass using a state of the art technique known as the Integrated Generation of Solid Fuel and Biogas from Biomass (IFBB). Thanks to IFBB, the project team discovered that 45% of the energy stored in grassland biomass can be transformed into heat.  In combining the IFBB-system with a biogas plant that produces excess heat, the value of heat provision can be raised by up to 53% of the gross energy yield. The team used the technique to successfully promote biomass and biogas production from protected grassland sites and ensure the livelihood of small farmers in marginal areas.

BIOGRID (LIFE07 ENV/E/000829) demonstrated the feasibility of producing a substitute natural gas (biomethane) from biogas, by coupling biogas production with an innovative biogas upgrading system, the Gastreament Power Package (GPP). High quality biomethane was compressed and stored in a fueling station from which a compressed natural gas truck was filled. A portable injection system was also fixed to the truck allowing it to transport and inject biomethane into the Spanish natural gas distribution network for the first time. Additionally, pure CO2 was used - obtained from the purified biogas – together with obtained digestate from the initial anaerobic digestion process as nutrients for the growth of algae. 

The BUCEFALOS project (LIFE11 ENV/SE/000839) focuses on the sustainable resource management of aquatic biomass. The idea is to clean freshwater and provide efficient yields of biomass for biogas production. A number of wetlands and algae cultivation sites for water remediation will be established in conjunction with a full-scale unit for cultivating and harvesting mussels in the Baltic Sea. The aim is to significantly reduce both phosphorus and nitrogen levels. Moreover, the project team aims to demonstrate a full-scale biogas plant for biogas production derived from the cultivated aquatic biomass. The project targets significant CO2 emissions reduction as a result of the capturing process of biomass growth and the use of biogas instead of fossil fuels.

VALUVOIL (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000451) looked at ways to improve the processing of waste vegetable oil (WVO) through anaerobic digestion. The team found that the most environmentally-friendly and sustainable way to dispose of the WVO was the two-phase reactor with the use of pig manure as a co-substrate. This process ensured biogas production with 65% methane content and less organic sludge in comparison to conventional treatment. Furthermore, the digestates generated in the anaerobic digestion process proved to have biofertiliser and biostimulant effects on plants and soils, highlighting the zero-waste cycle of the whole process.

The LIFE posters are but one of many communication products all about the LIFE programme. Visit the LIFE products page to discover the LIFE leaflet, LIFE videos, LIFE bookmarks, posters, and a screensaver illustrating the beauty of Europe's nature and biodiversity.


DISCOVERED LIFE documentary on pesticide pollution wins award

Photo:LIFE12 ENV/ES/000761

16 February 2016 The DISCOVERED LIFE project (LIFE12 ENV/ES/000761) has produced a documentary entitled ‘Discovering Lindane: the legacy of HCH production’.
The documentary, which was released late last year, received a prize in the XVIII Félix de Azara Awards 2015, given by the province of Huesca for the best film in the social media category

The 33-minute film tells the story of how the uncontrolled dumping of toxic hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) waste by the company Inquinosa between 1974 and 1992 led to one of Western Europe’s most serious pollution incidents. This currently affects more than 40 000 people in the Gállego River Basin in the Spanish autonomous region of Aragón.

The pollution is due to the manufacture of Lindane (gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane) at Inquinosa’s former-factory in Sabiñánigo. This pesticide was banned in the EU in 2000 and worldwide by the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention in 2009. However, the HCH in this pesticide and its waste is highly persistent, and presents a health risk because it acts as an endocrine disruptor.

One of the main sites used for unregulated toxic waste dumping was the Bailin landfill, and leakage into the Gállego River from this site intensified when work was started to relocate the landfill; drinking water supplies were interrupted when toxicity limits were exceeded. A massive and costly clean-up operation was initiated.
The main aim of the DISCOVERED LIFE project is to design, install and operate a prototype pollution mitigation system. This uses an In-Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) process to restore water quality in aquifers that have been contaminated by Lindane from landfill sites. In the film, members of the project team describe the pilot decontamination process, and how they plan to transform the Bailin site into a research centre to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of full-scale aquifer remediation. This will provide a model for other regions and countries with pesticide pollution problems.

The documentary was made by filmmaker Arturo Hortas, who was assisted on the script by members from the LIFE project beneficiaries International HCH & Pesticides Association (IHPA), SARGA and the regional government of Aragón. The documentary has been promoted on a website, where Spanish and English language versions of the film can be viewed, and on a Facebook page .


LIFE COLRECEPS raises awareness of polystyrene reuse in schools

Photo:LIFE12 ENV/ES/000754

15 February 2016 The LIFE COLRECEPS project (LIFE12 ENV/ES/000754) held an awareness-raising event on 15 January 2016 in the nursery school COLORINES, Laguna de Duero, near Valladolid.

The project, which was launched to construct a demonstration plant for the recycling of expanded polystyrene (EPS) waste in the Spanish province of Valladolid, has been working with the nursery school to develop activities for children.

When adapted for playschool-age children, the message of the project is simple: “White foam [expanded polystyrene] is not for throwing away.” Activities are also teaching the children about cooperation and team work.
Under the project, EPS waste will be processed at the pilot plant into plastic pellets and used to manufacture new prototype products for the food sector, giving added value to this waste stream and reducing the amount being sent to landfill or for incineration.

A key aim of the project is to improve public awareness of urban waste, so that more EPS is recycled. To this end, the project has organised a series of dissemination and awareness-raising actions in schools to promote the reuse of EPS among children.

At the COLORINES event, the project helped organise three different activities with three different groups of children. In the first, the children painted an igloo made with recycled expanded polystyrene, which the whole group had worked together to build.  The igloo provided a place to play and helped promote the project’s message.
The second activity engaged the children in the creation of a home for the class pet (a toy owl) made from recycled EPS. The final activity was a fishing game devised using recycled expanded polystyrene fish that had been painted by the children. The game offered an opportunity for the children to develop their counting skills and co-ordination.

For further information, see the LIFE COLRECEPS website.

Indicative planning for the LIFE call 2016


08 February 2016 An indicative planning for the LIFE call 2016 is now available. Applicants busy designing a potential new LIFE project now have a rough guide to the expected deadlines and submission routes. In addition, the total budget allocations for project types and subprogrammes are detailed.

The official 2016 call is provisionally scheduled to be published in the second half of May. Once ready, an application package and supporting information will also be made available, similar to previous calls.

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