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News: November 2018

Saving energy on a tight budget

Photo: DoppelPlus Photo: DoppelPlus

30 November 2018Climate change can feel overwhelming to us as individuals. For people on a low budget, taking steps to make everyday life more environmentally friendly is even tougher. ClimAct in Austria is taking steps to support and empower families to adapt.

DoppelPlus is an Austrian-based campaign run within the LIFE ClimAct project and led by Klimabündnis Tirol (Climate Alliance Tyrol). It has set up a network of volunteers who are coached to show low-income households tailored ways to save energy and adopt more climate-friendly travel, shopping and food.

“All Tyroleans who are affected by energy poverty can reduce household expenses through simple tricks while at the same time making an important contribution to climate protection,” explained project leader Petra Mautner.

Home visits

The project reaches out to households who are most vulnerable to energy poverty, whose houses suffer from low energy efficiency, or who have limited travel means. Such households are invited to register for a free coaching session (see in German and English). Participants receive a free starter kit of items that can be installed around the house, including LED lamps, thermometers and humidity measurers.

Coaching sessions are geared towards showing that small changes, especially during these winter months, can help lower the financial strains of a family with a low income.

Photo: DoppelPlus Photo: DoppelPlus

“Climate protection is everyone’s business, and even the smallest contribution can have a big effect,” says Deputy Tyrolean State Governor Ingrid Felipe. She added that the project could potentially save 350 tonnes of CO2 emissions – equivalent to the average annual consumption of 350 Tyrolean households.

A network of climate trainers

Running since October 2017, DopplePlus’s training programme for volunteers (see in German and English) helps coach low-income households on issues like energy-saving tips, lowering bills, improving diet and using alternative ways to travel. In return, volunteers gain valuable experience which can help them find their first job or get back into the job market.

To date, 35 people have taken the training course, visiting nearly 300 houses from the target group. DopplePlus also runs a follow-up train-the-trainers course. This is to ensure that the programme’s efforts will continue to ripple out into the community – and the wider Tyrolean region.  

As a side activity, the project has organised 15 training courses in environmental basics for beginner German-speakers. DopplePlus continues to extend its regional outreach with social partners including Tiroler Soziale Dienste, Diakoniewerk Tirol and Innsbrucker Immobiliengesellschaft.

Sustainable ambitions

Photo: DoppelPlus Photo: DoppelPlus

At the end of the project in 2020, DopplePlus will become part of the region’s Tirol 2050 autonomous energy strategy – recognition that the programme can make a lasting contribution to the state’s energy and climate policies.

More inspiration at COP24

DopplePlus activities have found a parallel in the city of Krakow at an ‘Eco-experimentarium’ exhibition set up in the city centre. The month-long exhibition invited families to explore an eco-friendly flat and see how to reduce consumption and cut energy bills. The exhibition was created in view of the 2019 UN climate change conference taking place in Poland this month.

The Eco-experimentarium on Facebook

Related links

Energy-saving tips and other downloads in German, English, Arabic and Turkish

 

Coexistence with wolves in a changing Romania

Photo: WOLFLIFE Photo: WOLFLIFE

30 November 2018Human and wolf coexistence is a complex challenge with deep historical roots. In Romania changing farming communities, expanding national infrastructure and fragmented habitats mean that the human–wolf relationship needs ever-closer attention.

The wolf is long idolised in fairy tales but remains a reality in the lives of farming communities. When farmers, their livestock and wolves share the countryside, conflict is inevitable. And while the amount of livestock killed by wolves is limited, a single attack can have a significant impact on a breeder’s income.

The WOLFLIFE project, covering the Eastern Carpathians, brings a much-needed scientific approach to the question of coexistence. It looks for answers on maintaining a viable wolf population and supports farmers and shepherds in managing coexistence with the species. Its recent documentary ”Wolves: from conflict to coexistence” offers an excellent illustration of the challenges and solutions at hand.

“This is the first time in Romania where an action plan has been made for the species”, explained Mr Silviu Chiriac, project manager from the Romanian Environmental Protection Agency. Having the support of the national ministry is a significant boost, he added.

Isolated but still under threat

Romania is home to some of the largest populations of Europe’s large carnivores including wolves and bears. WOLFLIFE estimates the country’s wolf population at around 3 000 individuals. These live mainly in the Carpathian Mountains, an isolated and protected region. More than 25% of Romania is designated as protected area, including as Natura 2000.

Yet despite this level of protection, the wolf faces many threats including

  • habitat fragmentation as roads and infrastructure expand
  • habitat reduction because of illegal logging – which the government is cracking down on
  • poaching and illegal hunting
  • infectious diseases from large numbers of stray or abandoned dogs

Tracking in the mountains

Photo: WOLFLIFE Photo: WOLFLIFE

A national action plan needs data on wolf behaviour, and this means covering a lot of ground. The WOLFLIFE team has covered 5 500km on foot across pilot areas of 9 000 – 12 000 acres recording the presence of wolves. To help locate packs, project teams used tools including remote camera traps (watch on Youtube) and audio recordings of wolf calls which packs respond to.

Genetic analysis

Gathering genetic data from droppings (known as scat) is critical to achieving an understanding of where and what wolves hunt. Data gathered by the project shows that livestock is very low on wolves’ diet in the region. Samples show

  • wild boar – especially piglets – as a primary food source
  • roe deer as a major food source, mainly in hilly areas
  • domestic and stray dogs account for 4-12% of kills
  • sheep and goat account for below 5% of kills

Protection methods for sheep farmers

As farm structures change, traditional sheep farming methods are starting to disappear. One difference is that sheep farmers have larger flocks with greater numbers of shepherd dogs, made up of new breeds not traditionally used for the job.

The WOLFLIFE team set up a breeding programme of Carpathian livestock guarding dogs – a traditional breed best suited to protecting livestock from predators. Pairs are offered free to encourage shepherds to employ these specialised dogs rather than more common breeds. “Shepherds are very happy because these dogs really make a huge difference,” said Mr Chiriac.

Photo: WOLFLIFE Photo: WOLFLIFE

Farmers are also given support to set up electric fences for their livestock. Combining protection dogs with electric fencing is key to successful flock protection. This approach has also been tested in other parts of the EU by another LIFE project, EUROLARGECARNIVORES.

Vaccination programme

Wild dogs are also a significant threat to wolves because they carry disease. With many dogs abandoned in the region, the WOLFLIFE team set up a neutering and vaccination programme for stray dogs. It also developed an awareness-raising campaign to demonstrate the damage caused by abandoned dogs.

Compensation available

At EU level, farmers will soon be able to receive compensation for damages caused by protected animals like wolves. Under a November decision by the European Commission, EU countries can claim 100% compensation for farmers, including for indirect costs such as treatment of wounded animals.

Investments made by farmers to protect their livestock – such as building electric fences – are also covered.  This move will reduce farmers’ incentives to kill wolves and other protected animals around their farms and support coexistence.

Finding cleaner alternatives to textile finishing products

Photo: MIDWOR-LIFE Hydrophobic material, MIDWOR-LIFE

26 November 2018The textile industry continues to look to a LIFE-funded project for inspiration on cleaning up its environmental impact, after the project officially concluded in August this year. MIDWOR-LIFE carried out industrial-scale assessments in Spain, the Czech Republic and Italy on textile finishing products which enable fabrics to repel water or oil.

Tests covered environmental impacts, occupational health risks, and technical performance. By supporting a search for alternatives, MIDWOR-LIFE can mitigate the environmental, health and safety impacts of these repellents.

Fluorinated or fluorine-free

Textile manufacturers use products known as durable water and oil repellents (or DWORs). These repellents are mostly classified between fluorinated and fluorine-free. Conventional repellents tend to be fluorinated and based on certain plastics (polymers) which have been shown to have persistent harmful effects on human health and the environment. They are the most concerning because the chemicals found in them can break down into compounds known as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Studies have detected these compounds around the world in the food chain, drinking water and human blood.

Banned by 2020

In response to these concerns, chemicals which release perfluorooctanoic acid and any polymer derivatives will be banned in the EU from 4 July 2020, with some exemptions for some specific uses for personal protective textiles, which will apply from 4 July 2023. The ban falls under REACH, the EU regulation protecting human health and the environment against risks posed by chemicals.

Photo: MIDWOR-LIFE Photo: MIDWOR-LIFE

However, polymers themselves are exempt from registration within the REACH regulation, and producers are not obliged to list them in the safety sheets for their products. This means it is difficult to make a sound risk assessment of the substances used in textile finishing products.

As a result, MIDWOR-LIFE recommends that polymers are registered under REACH. This means that industry would have

  • a clearer legal framework to help determine which polymers are potentially hazardous and which are of lower concern
  • help to move towards safer alternative products that will comply with EU law

“The consideration of polymer registration is not new”, said Gemma Janer from LEITAT, a centre which specialises in production technologies and one of the MIDWOR-LIFE partners. “The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has had a definition since 2009 for polymers of low concern. We endorse these recommendations.”

Analysis and demonstration

Photo: MIDWOR-LIFE Photo: MIDWOR-LIFE

The project used fabrics from 5 different textile sectors: work wear, automotive, home textiles, fashion and sportswear. 14 repellents available on the market were selected, both fluorinated and fluorine-free. The MIDWOR-LIFE team used a methodology called  life cycle assessment (LCA) to determine the environmental impact of the different repellents and their application process, including all the stages involved.

The project found that

  • the impact of fluorine-free products on the environment was 10 to 40 times lower than conventional fluorinated repellents
  • non-fluorinated chemistries can replace fluorinated ones for water-repellent products and still have a similar performance
  • the alternative oil-repellent products assessed did not perform well enough

“In terms of the environmental impact of fabric finishing, human toxicity and ozone depletion are the main categories affected”, said Julio Fierro from CETIM, a private non-profit tech centre in Spain and another MIDWOR partner. Fluorine-free products have an overall footprint up to 30 to 40 times lower than C8-based products, he added. C8 refers to the length of fluorinated repellents, subdivided into ‘perfluorocarbons’.

A tool for industry to assess their footprint

An online calculator developed by MIDWOR is available for industry to explore the impacts various repellent substances can have. Any textile business can use the interactive tool to get an instant breakdown of their finishing process by factors including carbon footprint, toxicity to humans, resource depletion and energy consumption.

Reaching a wider audience

The MIDWOR team continues to reach out to the wider public to explain its findings, and has published a summary report in 5 languages.

For a more technical audience, MIDWOR presented its findings to experts at the European Chemical Agency, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and other regulatory agencies in an October webinar organised by the OECD.
Case studies and recommendations on the OECD webinar
More on the EU chemicals regulation

Saving the European lynx – building on hunters' legacy

Photo: Matej Vranič Photo: Matej Vranič, LIFE Lynx

23 November 2018The European lynx (Lynx lynx) was first reintroduced into the Former Yugoslavia in 1973 by foresters and hunters, after the Dinaric-SE Alpine population becoming extinct in the wild at the end of the 19th century. Now, due to inbreeding and dwindling numbers, the LIFE Lynx project is fighting to save the population by introducing new animals.

Threats to a small population

LIFE Lynx, coordinated by the Slovenian Forest Service, focuses on the Dinaric-SE Alpine lynx population. Currently, the population is small, isolated, and extremely inbred; there were an estimated 120-130 individuals in the wild in 2012, spanning Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The LIFE project will reinforce the Dinaric-SE Alpine population with lynx from a viable source population in the Carpathians.

Inbreeding and isolation are significant threats to animal populations. “As animals become more related over time, without any help, the population is doomed to collapse,” explained Tomaž Skrbinšek from the project. He was speaking in the documentary ‘Path of the Lynx’ which premiered in June this year and will be available to the wider public in February 2019.

Photo: Matej Vranič, Photo: Matej Vranič, LIFE Lynx

Genetic reinforcement of the population is key. By introducing new animals, the Dinaric population will have a stronger genetic outlook – and a viable future. The project will consider integration a success if released animals survive at least one year, establish a territory, and find a mate.

Capture and release planning

“LIFE Lynx is busy carrying out monitoring of the source population in Slovakia and Romania, and choosing the capture sites”, said Rok Černe, project coordinator and project manager at the Slovenian Forest Service. Results will allow the project to identify the optimal individuals to select.

Project members have put together a manual for field personnel on how to collect genetic material from the species without any contact with the animals.

They have also started to monitor the release sites in Slovenia and Croatia. As with any reintroduction project, finding appropriate places to release the animals is crucial, especially to get the optimal population balance. By monitoring, “we can direct the animals’ releases and get the best population balance possible,” explained Mr Černe. Monitoring establishes a baseline status which can be compared later as the population expands.

Preparing for the arrivals

Photo: Matej Vranič, Lynx enclosure, Photo: LIFE Lynx

In the meantime, special enclosures for quarantine have been built in Romania and Slovenia and are awaiting the first arrivals. Locations and arrival times are kept secret until the day in order to reduce stress to the lynx. Once the animals arrive, hunters will be responsible for feeding them in during the quarantine period. The animals will also be checked regularly by a vet.

Working alongside hunters

It’s really important to work with local communities, says Mr Černe, and getting hunters on board with the project is key. The project team regularly meets hunters and local communities and has shown Path of the Lynx to 20 different groups. “People often have the impression that hunters just kill animals”, he remarked. “But with the film, we want to show that there would be no lynx in this part of Europe if the hunters and foresters hadn’t introduced them originally.”

The next steps are to set up box traps in Slovakia and Romania. “This is the trickiest part, so we will see how it goes”, explained Mr Černe. The team will be ready to start in January. Working during the early part of the year – especially during the mating season – offers the best chance to capture and relocate lynx.

See also

Report on lessons learned from past reintroduction [pdf 700KB]
Did you know? LIFE Lynx has the support of a celebrity ambassador: Anže Kopitar. The Slovenian ice hockey international also plays for the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL. The lynx is the symbol of Slovenia’s national ice hockey team.

Catching public pressure on marine litter

Photo: Clean Sea LIFE Plastic waste
Photo: Clean Sea LIFE

19 November 2018An estimated € 630 million is spent each year cleaning beaches and coastal areas across the EU. Fishing gear accounts for around 27% of marine litter – totalling over 11 000 tonnes per year. A workshop by the Clean Sea LIFE project at the European Parliament gave the fishing community and port authorities a platform to explain how marine litter affects them, and what solutions are possible. These are groups whose livelihoods are at the sharp end of the marine litter phenomenon.

“I just want a clean sea”

Over this summer, Clean Sea LIFE followed fishing vessels during their daily activities. Boats were given collection bags so fisherman were able to separate and collect the waste. “I just want a clean sea,” said one worker. “We shouldn’t have this waste that damages our fishing activities and the sea.” In Manfredonia, one of the areas visited, almost 80% of the catches were fishing gear waste.

Involving fishermen in the clean-up is really important, explained Eleonora de Sabata, communications manager for the project. “We want to create a network of volunteers engaged in regular clean-up activities, and pass the message on to younger generations.”

Action first

Clean Sea LIFE is pushing for action, not only awareness-raising. One of these actions is to try to organise waste activities in ports around Italy in Porto Torres, Rimini, San Benedetto de Tronto and Manfredonia. The project plans to organise further initiatives in other Italian ports in the spring.

Photo: Clean Sea LIFE Photo: Clean Sea LIFE

While EU funds are available to upgrade facilities in ports, recycling facilities do not always exist. Meanwhile, national law can cause extra complications because waste can be classified as goods once it reaches shore. This means that even if fishermen want to help, they are not allowed to transport waste without a license.

Workshop participants gave other insights into how to improve litter collection including

  • creating a common categorisation system for types of marine waste. Port authorities can use these to register the volumes of waste present
  • developing incentive systems for fishing vessels to build on fishermen’s readiness to help

Endorsement from the European Parliament

A 24 October vote in the European Parliament plenary advanced the European Commission’s proposed rules on single-use plastics and fishing gear. It will require

  • single-use items to be banned from 2021, or reduced by 25% by 2025 where no alternatives exist
  • national plans to be drafted for reuse, multi-use and recycling
  • at least 50% of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic to be collected by EU countries
  • producer companies to cover costs of waste collection, known as extended producer responsibility

“We should have a final report from the Parliament in March”, said Green Party / European Free Alliance MEP Marco Affronte at the workshop. Mr Affronte welcomed the pressure of public opinion on plastic waste which was pushing the new regulations through with unusual haste.

Other sources of inspiration

Photo: Clean Sea LIFE Photo: Clean Sea LIFE

Two other EU-funded projects – DeFishGear and ML-Repair – described their experiences working around Italy and Croatia. They reported positive feedback from fishing communities, as well as strong interest from national authorities in the data and experiences gathered. And in the Le Grau du Roi region of southern France, another project called ReSeaclons has been able to set up recycling containers that fishermen can access at ports. Logistics are managed by the local authorities, while a local cooperative called Trivéo oversees transportation.

Making ceramics more climate-friendly

Photo: LIFE ECONOMICK Photo: LIFE ECONOMICK

15 November 2018The ceramics industry is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, producing an estimated 1.84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide globally each year. A prototype kiln tested by the LIFE ECONOMICK project has shown significant improvements in energy performance.

The project is led by the Italian group SE.TE.C, which set out in July 2016 to develop a shuttle kiln for firing sanitaryware and tableware with similar levels of specific fuel consumption to a tunnel kiln.
Shuttle kilns are more flexible than tunnel kilns, but they are also more energy intensive. “They lack the internal heat recovery systems typical of tunnel kilns,” explains project manager Antonio Fortuna.

To reduce energy consumption, LIFE ECONOMICK has focused on two crucial aspects of shuttle kilns: heat recovery and insulation. A patented technology is being used to recover heat from flue gases to pre-heat combustion air. “Significantly, this technology does not use flues or additional pipes and above all does not alter the fluid dynamics of the flue gases in any way,” notes Mr Fortuna.

Insulation materials have been selected so as to achieve the best combination of weight and thermal conductivity. The result is “a lining that minimises thermal inertia and at the same time has a cool wall temperature of below 60°C,” he adds.

Testing the prototype

Photo: LIFE ECONOMICK Photo: LIFE ECONOMICK

A prototype of the new shuttle kiln was installed in April 2018 at the facilities of project partner Kerasan. The company is a well-known sanitaryware manufacturer in the Civita Castellana cluster in Viterbo province, north of Rome.

The 9 cubic metres kiln was tested for six months in order to monitor consumption and productivity levels during single firing of ceramic sanitaryware.

By pre-heating combustion air, optimising insulation and using software to better manage air and gas flows in the kiln, results have more than met expectations. The project reports 45-47% lower energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions compared to a conventional shuttle kiln. Nitrogen oxide emissions are also lower. In terms of productivity, “complete cycles (cold-to-cold) can be performed in 12 hours, making it possible to perform up to 2 cycles/day,” says Mr Fortuna. In addition, since the prototype kiln has a cool face temperature of less than 50 degrees Celsius, there is “greater well-being and safety of operators present in the kiln area,” he adds.

Stages to commercialisation

“Now that tests have been completed in the Kerasan factory, the Economick kiln will be installed at the facility of Ceramica Bianca in Romania for sanitaryware refiring,” says Mr Fortuna. A third round of tests - for tableware firing - will subsequently take place at Ceramica Cuore's factory in Civita Castellana, Italy.

SE.TE.C is already planning to commercialise the technology through trade fairs and direct contact with its main customers. “This technology is valid for sanityware, tableware and in general for all ceramics,” says Mr Fortuna. Emissions could be further reduced if it becomes possible to recover residual flue gas heat as well.

Sustainable farming to mitigate climate change

Emilio Gonzalez, ClimAgri coordinator Emilio Gonzalez, ClimAgri coordinator

13 November 2018A clear message emerged at the November LIFE ClimAgri workshop at the European Parliament: faced with climate change, current intensive farming practices are unsustainable.

Farmers and agricultural experts at the ClimAgri workshop described a host of challenges facing the industry. Soil loss caused by erosion, more days with high temperatures, and high levels of soil degradation on their land are all factors negatively impacted by climate variations. And conventional tilling practices, which cause soil layering and prevent water from penetrating the surface, compound many of the problems. The farming industry has to find working methods which are sustainable for the environment and make financial sense.

Seizing upon carbon capture

Carbon storage is one vital way to mitigate climate change, says Emilio Gonzalez-Sanchez, LIFE ClimAgri project coordinator. “Our role is to break the cycle of carbon by storing it in agricultural soils.” In order to do this, the project is showing how the farming sector can use conservation agriculture to reduce the amount of carbon released from the soil. This activity is known as carbon sequestration.

“Farmers see soil degradation in front of their eyes, and have responded with ‘conservation agriculture’,”, says Amir Kassam, a member of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “It is far more resilient and efficient than anything else we know.”

Conservation agriculture is a management practice which implies

  • avoiding tillage to disturb the soil as little as possible
  • creating a permanent groundcover with a growing crop or mulch
  • rotating or diversifying crops planted

Demoing conservation agriculture

ClimAgri has built a network of demonstration farms where conservation best management practices have been put in place. Conservation agriculture is at the forefront of these practices.

“20 years ago it was seen as mad to allow weeds to grow,” says Rafael Calleja, an agricultural engineer and farmer on the demonstration farm in Andalusia, Spain. “But weeds are our allies to protect the soil.”

ClimAgri demonstration farm ClimAgri demonstration farm

The 13 demonstration farms in Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy show significant environmental and financial benefits.

A study plot in Portugal, where organic matter had all but disappeared, showed increases from 0.2% to 2% of organic matter in 6 years. It also reported reduced soil run-off, lower machinery emissions and increased biodiversity. The farm implemented direct seeding – where seeds are inserted with a drill to minimise soil disruption – and crop cover.

In Italy, a demonstration farm is using precision technology including global satellites and geographic information systems to track data such as soil compaction, texture and nitrogen levels. These insights enable the farm to optimise the amount of seeds and fertiliser used. ‘Casoni’s Farm’ combines precision agriculture techniques with conservation agriculture in its search for sustainability.

Similar conservation techniques are being used on 3 plots in Greece, with no negative effects on yields.

Economical as well as environmental

Conservation agriculture has other significant benefits which can act as a real incentive for farmers. Results from ClimAgri demonstrations have shown

  • energy cuts of up to 35%, including less fertiliser and better use of pesticides
  • water savings of 30-40%, and reduced energy and labour costs of 50-70%
  • over 10% more organic carbon in the soil
  • Significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, as well as less nitrous oxide

Globally, conservation agriculture offers other opportunities well beyond the national perspective. The ClimAgri team notes that by implementing the practices more widely, the agricultural sector would offset greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors such as transport and energy. And the practices would help governments meet international agreements such as the Paris agreement, the EU’s 2050 low-carbon economy roadmap, and UN sustainable development goals.

Timely legislation

The EU is currently drafting significant legislation that will determine the next period of agricultural funding until the end of 2027. The European Parliament and European Council are assessing European Commission proposals on the EU’s common agricultural policy, known as the CAP. The Commission proposes that 40% of the next agricultural budget would contribute to climate action.

The Commission is also looking to streamline and simplify the EU budget, Jean-Claude Merciol, Head of LIFE at the Commission’s environment department explained. One way of streamlining is by running projects like ClimAgri which demonstrate repeated success in multiple EU countries.

EU Raw Materials Week 2018 – closing the loop on critical raw materials

Copper, public domain image Copper, public domain image

8 November 2018Three projects funded by LIFE are forging new ways to recycle everyday products that contain critical raw materials (CRM). Recovering more critical raw materials is central to the EU’s move towards a more circular economy. This subject is part of the 2018 EU Raw Materials Week, a 5-day event which brings together the raw materials community to discuss policies, technology, and frameworks from a global perspective. LIFE is manning an information stand to showcase the LIFE programme and promote funded projects. 

Fundamentals of critical raw materials

Critical raw materials are used more and more in everyday products, from mobile phones and laptops, to household appliances, to fluorescent lightbulbs. Precious metals like gold or yttrium, rare earths, and minerals like graphite or cobalt are considered ‘critical’ because they are

  • used by industries with a high economic value for the EU – including consumer electronics, green tech and automotive
  • sourced from a small concentration of countries outside the EU and so vulnerable to supply disruption
  • fundamental to achieving a shift to a greener society

Out of the loop

Critical raw materials are everywhere in the modern world, but not enough recycling takes place. Recycling standards are missing, manufacturers and recyclers need to find new ways to share information, and businesses lack data on the potential benefits of recycling these materials. And the process of recycling – as well as mining and refining – can have significant environmental impacts if not properly managed.

LIFE projects seek innovative methods that show how critical raw materials can be recycled in an economically viable way – and how they can meet the requirements of a true circular economy.

Trialling viable solutions

Public WEEE Collection bin. Public WEEE Collection bin.
Co-op Grocery Store, Milan

CRMRecovery, coordinated by The Waste and Resources Action Programme in the UK, focuses on better ways to extract critical raw materials from electronic waste. By conducting collection and recovery trials in 4 EU countries, the project is showing how recovery targets can be increased by 5% within the project cycle and 20% by 2030. Through this, CRMRecovery would demonstrate EU-wide environmental, economic and social benefits.

"In October 2018 we started sharing our recommendations for policy and infrastructure [pdf]. And on 20 February 2019, we will host our final conference in London to discuss and celebrate our work," explained the project team.

Lighting up a new source of materials

Light bulbs, Pixbay Light bulbs, Pixbay

The LOOP project in France tackled an unexplored resource of rare elements in Europe: powder waste from fluorescent lightbulbs. Using an innovative process developed by Rhodia (now Solvay), LOOP showed that 90% of this waste could be recycled and used to produce new energy-efficient bulbs.

Recycling these elements has wide benefits across the EU: the materials are used in high-tech electronics and green technologies. And since demand is growing 6% each year, having a new supply source will reduce the EU’s reliance on imports from outside Europe.

Screen dependence

LIFE RECUMETAL also focuses on how to recycle raw materials from electronic waste and reduce EU dependency on supply chains outside Europe. Partners in Navarra, Spain, are building a pilot recycling plant which will show how flat panel displays can be disassembled and their metals extracted. Up to 80% of indium and yttrium could be recycled from 100 tonnes of flat panel display waste. As well as making significant gains on the levels of materials recycled, the project will help to reduce the EU’s footprint in other countries which have lower controls on extraction and recycling processes.

Together, these projects will help to

  • reduce waste from our everyday electronic devices
  • reuse the critical materials they contain
  • drive new processes for the waste and recycling industries, and create jobs
  • minimise the EU’s dependency on other countries, especially China, to source and recycle critical materials

See also

Publication: LIFE and the circular economy [pdf 15MB]

Lists of critical raw materials and global supply overview

2018 report on CRM and the circular economy [pdf 4MB]

Innovative technologies to help deter environmental crime

Photo: LIFE Natura Themis Photo: LIFE Natura Themis

5 November 2018Environmental and wildlife crimes are cross-border, global problems that need modern solutions. LIFE projects are using new technologies and digital platforms to help national authorities identify crimes and deter potential offenders. A 2018 LIFE publication on wildlife crime details the many projects supported by LIFE, from training to prevention to enforcement and prosecution.

Catching and prosecuting environmental criminals is the task of the European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE). LIFE-ENPE together with 2 other projects – LIFE Natura Themis and the LIFE Northern Bald Ibis project – organised a conference last month on protecting habitats and endangered species. “If we, as prosecutors, can catch those who committed the crime, if we can prosecute, obtain damages and remove the proceeds of crime, then we can make others stop and think twice,” said Anne Brosnan, ENPE President and LIFE-ENPE project sponsor at the event.

Reporting crime in Crete

Photo: LIFE Natura Themis Photo: LIFE Natura Themis

The LIFE Natura Themis project in Crete encourages members of the public to submit anonymous reports about environmental and wildlife crimes to the authorities. Reports are possible via the online app ‘LIFE Natura Themis’, available for free download on Android and iOS. The app gives members of the public an easy tool to submit reports, and because they can be made anonymously, people have more incentive to speak out – especially on possible crimes in their local area.

“So far the app has been downloaded by more than 120 users and more than 70 reports have been registered,” says Michalis Probonas, the project coordinator. “Most of them have been forwarded to the competent authorities to act on.” Reports are overseen by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, analysed and, if appropriate, passed to the authorities.

One report from an anonymous citizen has led to a successful prosecution, where solid waste was found to have been illegally dumped on private land near a Natura 2000 site. A €2 000 fine was imposed on the manager of the business responsible.

Ambitions for the project extend beyond Crete. After it ends in September 2020, LIFE Nature Themis will hand over the app to the Greek environment and energy ministry so it can be rolled out across the whole country.

Streamlining intelligence on waste crime

LIFE SMART Waste Photo:LIFE SMART Waste

In the UK, the LIFE SMART Waste project runs an online communications hub for regulatory bodies and other interest groups to work together on prevention and intervention. LIFE SMART Waste is led by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). The cross-European hub generates a wealth of information on the waste industry. This enables enforcement agencies to spot vulnerable areas that could become subject to criminal activity.

LIFE SMART Waste is now looking to pilot a secure, web-based application to supplement the hub. “Initially related to cross-border movement of waste, this may offer a potential to share classified intelligence between agencies in the UK and Europe,” explains Iain Brockie, LIFE SMART Waste Technical Team Unit Manager.

LIFE SMART Waste has also created a new practical toolkit to help regulators gather intelligence to identify trends and emerging issues, using publicly-available information. Issues identified can be discussed with interested parties and external experts during workshops. “Gathering these signals of change can provide valuable insights into the future development of waste crime and criminal behaviour,” says Mr Brockie.

A legal footing

The EU’s Environmental Crime Directive requires EU countries to treat certain breaches of EU environmental law as crimes. Killing and trade of protected species, for example, should be prosecuted by national authorities. The LIFE programme has invested over € 80 million in more than 50 projects targeting environmental crimes.

EU legislation on environmental crime
Publication: LIFE and wildlife crime

 

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