In February, Elmo Leather were granted permission by the Environmental Testing Delegation to build a new treatment plant in Svenljunga and the Elmo board has now given the go-ahead to an investment of SEK42 million (US$5.6 million). Building work will commence immediately and the new treatment plant is expected to be open by February 2005.

Elmo Leather have employed the services of local building firms from the Svenljunga area to construct the new plant and there will be a gradual transition from the treatment used in the municipal treatment plant to treatment in the new plant.

The treatment process is based on new technology for biological treatment cutting nitrogen emissions in wastewater by 80%. The technology has been recognised by the EU’s environmental fund, LIFE, via a grant of €1 million (see Leather International, October, page 9).

The technology means that water pollutants are broken down using the micro-organisms that exist in the wastewater. In simple terms this new purification technology means that the micro-organisms in the wastewater are allowed to grow and multiply. To survive, they are forced to use up nitrogen pollutants due to the lack of oxygen. The result is that the dominant part (around 80%) of the pollutants disappears because they have been reduced to nitrogen gas, ie the same gas that dominates the atmosphere. Traditional wastewater treatment methods at tanneries reduce nitrogen emissions by about 30%.

The main purpose of LIFE is to drive the development of the EU’s environmental policy by supporting pilot projects that illustrate innovative technologies or methods. A LIFE project should serve as a good example and turn environmental policies into practical action. The supervisory authority for LIFE in Sweden is the National Environmental Protection Agency.

Elmo Leather expect at least 75% of the European tannery industry to have been informed about the new technology’s environmental and financial benefits by the time the project is completed.