Living Lab 2 Black Sea

Second Living Lab focuses on strategies for better governance of PFAS

In the last week of May in a resort near Varna, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, the second living lab of Source to Seas - Zero Pollution 2030 took place.

| June 3rd, 2024 | News

Hosted by partner Black Sea NGO Network, the workshop called ‘Designing strategies for better governance of persistent chemicals in the Black Sea basin’, brought together stakeholders from several countries in the region. These represented research institutes, government bodies, industries and NGOs, who worked together to explore the opportunities for reducing the load of a specific category of persistent chemicals: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in the environment of the Black Sea basin.

The Living Lab aimed to generate feasible pathways for reducing PFAS concentrations in the aquatic and the marine environment. The participants explored and identified challenges to decrease the existing load of ‘forever chemicals’ in the sea. The outcome of the discussions during the Living Lab will guide the prioritisation of strategies and policies that have the potential to raise awareness of the risks posed by PFAS in the Black Sea basin and indicate to possible ways to reduce their concentrations below safe limits.

PFAS elimination scenarios for the Black Sea

The project is particularly important for the Black Sea countries, since it contributes to the regional awareness of implementing cross-border actions and policies by both EU and non-EU members. According to Ms. Iryna Makarenko, who addressed the living lab on behalf of the Permanent Secretariat of the Black Sea Commission (BSC), “source-to-sea management and chemical pollution are on the BSC agenda already, but we need to further strengthen collaboration with different actors, including four European Regional Seas Conventions, Riverine Commissions, as well as relevant organisations and initiatives on regional and global level. We are ready to introduce PFAS elimination scenarios into BSIMAP and encourage appropriate involvement of various authorities and other stakeholders, deepen multilateral collaborations with riverine bodies, regional, national and local authorities from Fisheries and Aquaculture sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society.”

Identifying challenges for reduction

Discussions at the living lab focused on better understanding the participants’ relation to PFAS and identifying the challenges for the reduction of PFAS. The stakeholders then listed a number of problematic areas presenting difficulties to reduce PFAS in environmental, regulatory, political and awareness terms. The focus of the living lab was on a shared understanding of the PFAS-challenge through the exchange of knowledge and perspectives of all stakeholders. The participants tried to outline the stakeholder groups involved and define the problem by identifying the different issues and the needs of individuals concerned, and then identify the steps which are required to resolve the situation. Also, alternative uses of PFAS and solutions to the problem were considered.

All sectors at the living lab exchanged knowledge about their current challenges and were part of a mutual learning process. The priorities regarding reducing PFAS were discussed in an inclusive manner with the central question: if we must reduce PFAS, what is the best way forward and what are our needs and preconditions?

Mobilisation of networks

Discussions tried to prioritise approaches, stressing the significance of awareness raising. The participants pointed out that the situation required immediate action following the precautionary principle as the study of PFAS properties, sources, pathways and impact would take a long time. The significance of individual considerations and the mobilisation of networks of like-minded people, e. g. investigating journalists, were other topics of discussion. Apart from the significance of action on the local level, the interaction between industries and governments in the Black Sea region was emphasised, and also the promotion of alternative solutions to uses of PFAS.  Regional policy institutions and the related funding instruments like the common Maritime Agenda for the Black Sea were identified as significant factors for reducing chemical and PFAS pollution from source to seas.

The event created a dynamic space for the participants to come together, following the principles of the European Network of Living Labs.

Commission on reducing pollution in European seas

The insights coming out of the Living Lab will be used to formulate scenarios to be deliberated upon in a subsequent session. The outcomes of these two Living Labs will be part of the advice provided to the Commission on reducing pollution in European seas within the Source to Seas – Zero Pollution 2030 project.

The discussions shed light on the basic knowledge of the stakeholder groups and shared the feeling that incentives are needed to raise awareness and support strategies for improvement of governance and development of policies in the region based on transparency, prevention at source, affordability and availability of alternatives.

This is the second of three regional living labs scheduled for 2024. The upcoming session for the Mediterranean region (November 2024, Greece) will focus of Tyre Wear Particles (TWP).

What are PFAS?
PFAS, short for Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are a large group of manufactured chemicals that have the ability to resist heat and repel grease, water and oil. This makes them desirable to use in a wide range of products, including in the medical sector. The use of PFAS is however problematic as the chemicals are emitted to the environment where they do not easily break down, can accumulate over time, and are a considerable cause for concern due to their potential negative impacts on human health and the environment. Learn more about the issue in our StoryMap.

The overall aim of the Source to Seas – Zero Pollution 2030 (SOS-ZEROPOL2030) project is to develop a holistic zero pollution framework that will guide the EU towards achieving zero pollution in European seas.

Learn more about the project under Home and About and find all project resources, including our reports, infographics and StoryMaps under Resources.

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