Dutch eco-design schemes cleared by EU

Small businesses, large multinational get boost to develop green products

The European Commission has cleared Dutch financial support for two programmes to promote the development of more environmentally-friendly products and manufacturing processes. The Commission said yesterday that the funding does not contravene EU competition laws.

Last June, the Dutch government launched a scheme to help small businesses develop more environmentally friendly products. The ministries of economic affairs and environment jointly offered DFl14 million (Ecu6.4 million) in the form of grants for up to 50% of development costs.

The government has already approved six projects under the scheme, including one to increase the lifetimes of natural or plant-derived hydraulic oils. Another project aims to recover and re-use chromium-based waste from the leather processing industry.

But the government decided to wait for official EU assurance that it was not contravening trade law before approving further projects. It now aims to fund another 50-60 projects before the end of the year. The scheme will then be reviewed.

Yesterday, the European Commission also cleared a 20-year "Ecodesign" project being run by the Dutch arm of Philips, the multinational electronics firm. The Government is directly subsidising the project to the tune of DFl10 million over five years.

The Philips project is looking at ways to improve product design so as to reduce environmental impacts during production, product use and after disposal. A primary aim is to generate information about the mechanics of re-designing products so that other firms can adopt similar approaches. It also aims to show how environmental features can be made an integral part of manufacturing.

The Commission has asked the Dutch Government to ensure the "timely dissemination" of the results of the Ecodesign project when completed. The two schemes are part of a host of Government initiatives to put Dutch industry on a more sustainable footing and improve its competitiveness (ENDS Daily 3 February).

Follow Up:
Ministry of economic affairs, tel: +31 70 361 0401; Environment ministry, tel: +31 70 3393939; Nederlandse Philips bedrijven, tel: +31 40 2782912. See also: ENDS Report 224, September 1993, pp. 22-24.

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