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Preventing hazardous and unwanted particles from reaching the Baltic Sea

18 May, 2021 - 16:49

The Reviving Baltic Resilience (RBR) project is focused on adequate technical design tailored to four pilot cases aimed at evaluation of solutions to diminish flux of pollutants from reaching the Baltic Sea. Marine pollution results from direct and indirect sources. Fine particles in exhaust gases from diesel engines and micro plastics from beaches make the direct sources. Pollutants from contaminated sites, perfluorinated compounds from landfills are of indirect origin, since have to be carried from the land to the sea by aqueous streams. The research results enabled implementation of proactive environmental prevention approach through the establishment of the South Baltic Proactive Resilience Institute/Cluster. Such a unique project concept was born through partners experience from prior EU and national initiatives.

It results from evaluation of preceding projects, such as Euroslam, InnoHeat, W2R, RECO, WAB and RENSOL, that the most supportive environmental performance data and activities pertain to the proactive approach. The goal of those projects was preventing contamination rather than facing the consequences of pollution. The RBR project pilot investments have also been served to disseminate and further develop proactive technological solutions.

The benefits of proactive approach in environmental projects have been shown by successful prevention of hazardous and undesired particles in a wide size range to reach the Baltic Sea. Simultaneously such knowledge has been disseminated to collaborating partner countries by sharing research results, among other, through established Cross-border Green Technology Cluster which will contribute to achieving higher resilience of the Baltic Sea to pollution.

Thus the main output of the project are four pilot investments, situated in each of the participating countries, which correspond to particulates emission prevention to water and air. The pilot installations are complementary with respect to contaminating particles size, beginning from plastic-polluted beaches which leads to release of macro and micro particles, phytoremediation of emulsified oil-polluted sites, perfluorinated colloidal contaminants from landfill leachates, and ending on emission of fine smoke particles from marine diesel engines.

Pilot Cases

Modified diesel engine powered by dimethyl ether installed on Photon floating laboratory

The use of dimethyl ether in diesel engine through a dual fuel system allows to eliminate emission of solid particles in the exhaust gas. As part of the work, elements of the engine and the supply system were rebuilt, fuel tanks installed, the automation of the engine operation modified, the vessel hull adapted to safety requirements for fuel storage and the new drive, and proprietary fuel system was implemented. Responsible partner – Gdańsk University of Technology, LP. The Photon vessel and the installed new apparatus and equipment, fuel systems, controls and data acquisition system are ready for further research and testing as part of international cooperation on diesel engine performance and environmental emissions.

Environmental assessment of engine operation; on the left: probe for sampling and on line measurement of the exhaust gas composition; on the right: gas fuel injectors (Photo by Jan Hupka)

Limiting pollution, especially of plastics, including microplastics on beaches, and thus reducing their emission to the Baltic Sea

Significant part of plastic pollutants contains food residues, therefore, beach waste collection has additionally a positive effect on hindering nutrients emissions to the Baltic Sea. For such a purpose, project partner the Municipality of Palanga purchased and tested a professional mobile beach cleaning machine. The machine has been tested in terms of the effectiveness of pollution removal, and the Project Partner prepared documentation regarding legitimacy of such a machine application on beaches with high pollution levels, including plastic debris.

Deep cleaning machine on Palanga beach (Photo by Olga Anne)

Collection of debris by raking, screening and mixed cleaning prevents plastics disintegration, thus prevents microplastics entering to the marine water (Photo by Olga Anne)

Phytoremediation of oily soils

The use of living plants to remediate contaminated soils has been demonstrated by professor William Hogland, Linnaeus University, and Jeanette Lennartsdotter, CEO Orrefors Park. Pollutants accumulate in plants and can be recovered or destroyed. Regarding oil-contaminated sites the technology requires construction of a greenhouse which prevents air and water secondary contamination by vapors and leachate. Several species of sunflowers were found to get adapted to different environments including oil-polluted soil. Therefore, research is needed to elucidate how ecotypes arise and how their distinctive combinations of adaptive alleles (gen versions) are maintained despite hybridization with non-adapted populations.

Greenhouse for treatment of oil-contaminated soils with the collection and purification unit of air and leachate water (Drawing KSRR, 2017)

First phytopark on former glass dumps in the Kingdom of Crystal in southeastern Sweden - consisting of plants that have the ability to clean soil, air and water - a unique project - collaboration with Linnaeus University, Kalmar campus (Photo Barometern, Kalmar, 3 August 2017, Emelie Forsberg)

Treatment of leachate from landfills using carbon filters

Within the pilot case NSR AB planned, built and has been testing multistage cleaning system for leachate originating from landfill located in the vicinity of the waste treatment plant near Helsinborg. The system is particularly aimed at removal of perfluorinated alkylated substances, PFASs, which pose significant threat to human health and wellbeing of various aquatic ecosystems. Leachate from municipal landfills requires extensive pre-treatment prior to discharge to conventional sewage treatment plants. Key component of the leached treatment system is combined adsorption/filtration bed composed of blended charcoal, ash, peat and spent, ground ceramic material - all designed and acquired by the project. NSR AB is investigating the possibility of using phytoremediation on a larger scale for different types of contaminants.

Two graphene filters functioning as a single unit, in parallel and in series, placed in a container

Cross-border knowledge exchange

The proposed proactive, preventive technologies make firm foundation for cross-border collaboration of the RBR project partners, but also for any interested parties which are going to join the Cross-border Green Technologies Cluster. In short, here are the green technologies allowing to decrease dischargers of pollutants into the South Baltic area:

  • Adaptation of marine engines for gas-liquid fuel system to prevent smoke emission,
  • Removal of plastics and nutrients from beaches,
  • Multistage cleaning system for landfill leachate,
  • Oily soil treatment system by phytoremediation in coastal zone.

The RBR project results allow to upgrade existing technologies for treatment of polluted streams/sites to become more environmentally friendly and to secure building a sustainable future, through:

  • technical analysis towards most proactive solutions,
  • trials in existing pilot installations,
  • holistic evaluation of the solutions from a technical, social and economic perspective.

Cross-border approach allows to broaden our knowledge through experience gained from other countries, frequently having different legal, economic and cultural systems. The Cross-border Green Technologies Cluster certainly will enhance the impact of the RBR project.


Jan Hupka, Andrzej Rogala
Gdańsk University of Technology

Good to know

The Reviving Baltic Resilience project is a partner project of the BSR WATER platform, funded by the Interreg South Baltic Programme 2014-2020.

We warmly welcome you to join the Final conference of the RBR project on 9 June 2021, organised as a part of the BSR WATER summer conference "Accelerating the transition to clean and healthy Baltic Sea"!