Research for clearer air

2019. 02. 26.

Press release by MEP György Hölvényi

At a joint press conference earlier today, Fidesz-KDNP MEP György Hölvényi and Dr. András Gelencsér, rector of the University of Pannonia, presented the results of recent research into the causes of air pollution. The study, made possible with support from a public tender issued by the EU’s Environmental Protection Directorate, examines one of the gravest environmental problems of our times and explores different methods to solve it. An international consortium, led by the University of Pannonia, examines the harmful environmental impact of incineration of household solid waste.

Contrary to popular belief, household burning plays a decisive role in the development of air pollution and smog, even in large cities. Aside from improper burning techniques and the use of inadequate fuel, the incineration of solid waste (prohibited by law but still quite common in many places) causes serious environmental harm. According to estimates, in Hungary alone, thousands of tons of plastic waste, clothes, furniture, packaging materials and construction waste end up in domestic furnaces or stoves every year. Incineration of high-calorific waste results in the emission of gas pollutants and particulate emissions in significant amounts and also releases hazardous substances into the air, such as heavy metals, plasticizers or various carcinogens. Illegal household waste incineration thus poses serious health risks not only in its direct surroundings but also in the broader area.

As a first step, the research initiated by MEP Hölvényi, assesses the extent of air pollution as a result of burning hazardous waste, tires, used clothes, electronic devices, construction waste, etc. and its impact on health. The ultimate goal of the research is to determine what measures can be taken to reduce air pollution, taking into account socio-economic considerations and what environmentally friendly and sustainable burning methods could be proposed.

“The European Union Environmental Protection Directorate launched an open call for applications, which was awarded to a consortium of professional institutions from four countries and led by the University of Pannonia. The members of the consortium are the National Meteorological Service and Romanian, Belgian and German research institutes. During a two-year project with a total budget of € 734,000, experts will calculate the estimated amount of air pollution resulting from waste incineration in several Hungarian and Romanian settlements through chemical analysis of airborne particles and the measurement of chemical tracers specifically for waste incineration. Researchers examine the socio-economic context of the phenomenon and propose possible solutions,” Rector András Gerencsér said at the press conference in Veszprém.

“The focus of the program is on public information for the purpose of better acquainting decision-makers and the general public in all European countries with the outcomes of the project. That is, the prevalence, characteristics and dangers of illegal waste incineration as seen in the examples of Hungary and Romania,” said György Hölvényi, member of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).  “In addition, the research program brings to the fore the issue of maintenance of rural areas. It also provides a good rationale for the need to modernize heating systems and, last but not least, provides a good opportunity for Hungarian industry as well.”

Winning the tender marks a great success for the University of Pannonia and Hungary. Since accession to the European Union, only once before has a Hungarian institution successfully led an international consortium on such a project.