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Article related to: Biocides
Getting less harmful biocides on the market – the Danish way
Innovation takes time, and time is money. But what if your government was able to help you fund a project to put less harmful biocides on the EU market? This is what the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets out to do with a new, small-scale innovation project.
They had two objectives: to promote biocides that are less harmful to human health and the environment and to support small businesses. “From the start, we wanted to help small companies get their ideas off the ground and enter the biocides market. After running programmes to fund less harmful pesticides, and realising that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are especially challenged by the requirements of the Biocidal Products Regulation, we wanted to set up a similar scheme for biocides,” says Ms Vivi Johansen, Head of Section at the Pesticides and Gene Technology Unit in the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.
The Danish EPA decided to fund a scheme for SMEs. To be eligible for the grant, companies needed to use active biocidal substances that are considered less burdensome on human health and the environment.
The scheme was part of the Danish Action Plan on Chemicals 2014-2017. In total, it gave out EUR 200 000 (DKK 1.5 million).
Finding less harmful options
Biocides, by definition, kill, deter or prevent harmful organisms, such as bacteria, mould or insects. “But of course, some active biocidal substances are less harmful to our health and the environment than others,” Ms Johansen says. These are listed in Annex I to the Biocidal Products Regulation. Products that contain only these active substances are eligible for a simpler authorisation procedure and have an easier access to the markets of other EU Member States.
The grants were only given to applicants using these less harmful active substances. “This meant that the company either wanted to put a new active substance on the list of substances that are known to be less harmful, or to get an authorisation for a biocidal product that was using these Annex I substances,” Ms Johansen says.
Mr Henrik Wennermark, Ecotoxicologist at the Danish EPA, explains that the companies can use the grant to cover testing and consultancy expenses. “In their application for a new active substance, they will have to prove that their substance is stable and less harmful. In their biocidal products application, they will also have to prove that their product is effective. This requires tests and takes time,” he says.
The more substances there are on the list of less harmful active substances in the EU, the more options there are for all companies in Europe to make less harmful biocidal products. “A grant that covers costs is also important, because the data on most of the substances listed in Annex I is not protected and therefore anyone can use it to create less harmful biocides,” Ms Johansen explains.
|Henrik Wennermark. |
Image: Henrik Wennermark.
Innovative new uses
Four applications were received within the two-month deadline. After careful assessment, three companies were granted funding. One company received the grant to apply for product authorisation for an in-can preservative for their paints.
Two companies received funding to get willow extract and glycerine on the EU’s list of less harmful active substances. If the substances are put on the list, they can be used as less harmful alternatives to the existing solutions to deter insects, for example.
No go without funding
Ms Johansen says the successful applicants were all companies whose main business is not biocides – but who had come across a good idea with biocidal potential as part of their business. “Because their day-to-day work is focused elsewhere, they would not have had the time or the means to do the tests and put together an application. The feedback we got was that, without the grant, they would never have even pursued these alternatives.”
The results will be available in 2018 and 2019. “From now until 2019, the companies will test their substances and products, and every few months we will hear where they are with their testing and pick up the bill,” Mr Wennermark says. “We all hope that the testing will be favourable for the substances and products,” he adds.
Ms Johansen says the scheme also helped raise awareness of the EU biocides obligations. “We knew that small companies were facing challenges with biocides. People might not even know that a biocides regulation exists or that they need an authorisation to sell their products.” The Danish EPA will continue to help companies with information and guidance on the rules for approving less harmful biocides.
“We hope to repeat the scheme in the future – but this will be a political decision. Based on our experience, we would definitely recommend a similar funding scheme for any EU country, if budget permits,” she concludes.
Did you know?
The European Union has several support and funding schemes for SMEs in particular. Have a look at the European small business portal to find all the sources.
Less harmful biocides
In-can preservative for paints
Glycerine to fight floor dust – and ants
Interview by Veera Saari
Top image: Fotolia
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27 November - 1 December