Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the construction and precast concrete industry face increasing demands from clients and legal authorities as well as their own employees for environmentally sounder and safer production processes. The use of concrete mould release agents is a part of the production process in which significant improvements with respect to environment, workers' health and product quality may now be achieved. Currently used mineral oil based products deplete fossil resources, cause pollution of air, water and soil with toxic and poorly degradable compounds and generate hazardous waste. Fire hazards and exposure to toxic vapours at the workplace are also a major concern. Quality standards for concrete products are continuously rising, which makes great demands on the SME's innovation capacity.
The project focused on substituting recently developed non-toxic, biodegradable and non-flammable vegetable oil based Release Agents ('VERA') to replace the traditional mineral oil based products. Demonstration projects were set up in a number of pilot sites in different countries and in various types of production processes, in order to demonstrate the benefits in a range of production situations. Training and advisory facilities for SME's and workers were organised and information on the health, environmental, technical and economical aspects of the innovation were collected and disseminated to target markets and target actors. For the SME's concerned this should result in a number of benefits. Firstly, safer and healthier working conditions, reduce insurance costs. Secondly, a reduction of risks associated with pollution and the generation of hazardous waste. Thirdly, in many cases improved production performance, giving higher quality concrete products and finally the possibility to communicate a positive 'green' image to potential clients.
Although the switch towards VERA has already been proven to be feasible in a number of companies, the market share of VERA is still relatively small and a strategic technology transfer project needed to overcome barriers preventing wider adoption. The project addressed a EU-wide problem with a strongly EU-wide consortium of experts in concrete technology, environmental and occupational hygiene, SME's from the construction and precast concrete industry and the European trade union from Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Portugal.
On a European level, the innovation should result in a reduced environmental pollution and have a positive impact on workers' health. Furthermore, the switch to vegetable oil based products reduces the use of fossil resources and creates new markets for agricultural based products.
It delivered results which have potential EU benefits in the following areas:
- Social; improved working conditions, reduced health problems associated with VOCs, reduced fire hazards and reduced bad smells
-Environmental; VOC emissions reduced to zero, reduced use of depletable materials
-Economic; improved competitiveness for those using VERAs, new markets for agricultural products (high quality vegetable oils)
-Reduced administration currently used to enforce EU regulations related to conventional release agents.
Lessons learned under the project were disseminated through articles, workshops etc. and may provide useful experiences and expertise to facilitate future substitution processes.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
78061 Saint Quentin-en-yvelines