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News: August 2018

Greening processed food production

Photo: LIFE ECO-DHYBATPhoto: LIFE ECO-DHYBAT

10 August 2018The food processing industry’s biggest impact on the environment comes from cleaning and disinfection. While this is vital for food hygiene and safety, it consumes vast amounts of water, energy and chemicals. Cleaning and sanitisation also releases undesirable chemicals into the environment, and generates wastewater and greenhouse gases.

The Spanish agro-food research and technology centre, AINIA, set up LIFE ECO-DHYBAT to see if applying eco-hygienic design principles could reduce the environmental burden of food manufacturing, in particular dairy and fish products.

“We worked with two companies, Calidad Pascual and Nueva Pescanova, modifying some of their production lines to make the equipment easier to clean,” says project manager Alfredo Rodrigo. “Then we measured the environmental impact of the cleaning and disinfection process on the different lines, so we could compare the results from the improved lines with the standard ones.”

Spending less to get more

The benefits were clear: the modified lines proved easier to clean, consuming less water and energy; wastewater quality improved as less organic matter remained in the equipment pre-cleaning; and energy consumption (heat and power) decreased, resulting in lower carbon dioxide emissions. What’s more, less time was spent cleaning the new lines, which boosted productivity.

An important lesson from the project is that even small modifications, such as avoiding sharp corners when designing equipment, can make a difference when it comes to the overall environmental impact and effectiveness.  

Photo: LIFE ECO-DHYBATPhoto: LIFE ECO-DHYBAT

The cost of adapting existing equipment was shown to be largely offset by savings on water, energy and cleaning products. “The cost is recovered very quickly,” explains Mr Rodrigo. “And if eco-hygienic criteria are used at the design stage of food processing lines, there is no extra cost.”

Industry standard

The project’s achievements have led the EU to consider it and eco-hygienic design as a role model for the food and beverage sectors. “Although our industrial trials focused on dairy and fish processing, very similar results can be obtained for other food and drinks such as juice and meat products,” says Mr Rodrigo.

LIFE ECO-DHYBAT proposed eco-hygienic design as a candidate Best Available Technique (BAT) for the food industry. BAT Reference Documents (BREFs) are used by EU Member States when issuing operating permits for activities covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive. It was therefore a cause for celebration for the project team when the European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau included eco-hygienic design in thefinal version of the BREF for the food, drink and milk sector.

LIFE ECO-DHYBAT is a Best of the Best LIFE Environment project 2016-17

Training fishermen to save sea turtles

Photo: TARTALIFE Photo: TARTALIFE

09 August 2018Commercial fishing has unintended negative consequences for sea turtles. An estimated 200 000 turtles die every year in the Mediterranean after being accidentally caught in fishing nets. The Italian Marine Science Institute led a project called TARTALIFE to tackle unnecessary turtle deaths, focusing on the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in particular. This involved showing fishermen what to do in case of accidental capture and how to use devices to prevent such by-catch occurring.

The project team encouraged the use of LED visual deterrents, circular hooks for line fishing, which are less damaging to turtles, and exclusion grids for bottom trawling. “It is essential to train fishermen because they are the first actors in the species conservation process,” explains project leader Alessandro Lucchetti. “Protection of sea turtles mainly depends on the procedures implemented in the immediate aftermath of capture.”

Sea trials a success

Photo: TARTALIFE Photo: TARTALIFE

TARTALIFE’s efforts were not in vain. “The fishermen showed interest in the various activities and great cooperation during sea trials,” says Mr Lucchetti. Some 500 of them took part in those trials, with around 1 500 fishermen in total reached by the project through ‘infodays’.

Results showed that TARTALIFE’s procedures can help reduce incidental catches of sea turtles without reducing commercial catches and the team says that most Italian fishermen are now aware of what needs to be done. The project also reached out to around one million visitors to the turtle rescue centres that are benefiting from LIFE funding, spreading the conservation message to tourists.

For more examples of how LIFE is having a positive impact on the marine environment, see our new LIFE Focus brochure.

In with the old, out with the new in Kleine Nete

Photo: LIFE Kleine Nete Photo: LIFE Kleine Nete

06 August 2018The Kleine Nete is a lowland river situated in the Flemish Campine region. The river valley consists of heathland and moors in higher areas and valley ecosystems along the stream.

"One of the unique things about the Kleine Nete is that there is still freshwater tidal influence, which means the river is affected by tides," said Wout Opdekamp, project coordinator of the LIFE Kleine Nete project. "This, combined with the connectivity to heathlands, makes it a very special area. You can find species like the summer snowflake, which is an inhabitant of freshwater tidal systems, and only a few hundred metres along on you can find dry heath species."

Piecing the puzzle together

Decades of tree planting, intensive agriculture and drainage placed several habitat types in the Kleine Nete Valley under severe pressure, resulting in a loss of biodiversity, with some species on the verge of extinction.

The construction of holiday cottages and artificial ponds caused major fragmentation of the natural habitats of the valley as well as causing other problems such as the introduction of invasive species and increased waste disposal.

"One of the main difficulties in Flanders is that the landscape is highly fragmented, so we truly had to piece the nature reserve together again by acquiring private land," says Mr Opdekamp.

Photo: LIFE Kleine Nete Photo: LIFE Kleine Nete

With the help of LIFE funds, the project successfully restored the region to a more natural state, with better connected habitat types, reversing the impact of years of destructive activity.

The project removed a number of former holiday cottages and transformed their artificial ponds into more natural environments. By creating a better connection between the river and the valley bottom, the flood risk was reduced and biodiversity improved, which now includes a stable beaver population.

Driving innovation

Within the context of the LIFE programme, the project performed an important eco-hydrological study and developed an innovative 'Softrack' vehicle. "It's a caterpillar-tracked device that can mow grasslands or peatlands that are inaccessible by regular agricultural devices, because it has a very low ground pressure," says Mr Opdekamp.

The Kleine Nete team also launched a new initiative to produce compost from the vegetal biomass produced by the management of the grasslands and heath vegetation.

One of the project's successes was the close collaboration between different public bodies and interests, making the management of the region more integrated and leading to a more effective climate change adaptation policy. Led by Natuurpunt, a Flemish NGO with over 100 000 members, the project worked with the province of Antwerp and the Flemish Environmental Agency to improve the river's natural environment. Natuurpunt will continue the management of the protected areas.

LIFE Kleine Nete is a Best of the Best LIFE Nature & Biodiversity project 2016-17

 

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