The Danube PIE project, with its main goal to educate SMEs in Danube region about eco-design, was successfully completed in December 2014. Eco-design grows from the notion that each product impacts the environment, which should be duly noted and reduced in each phase of the product life cycle. These phases include extraction of raw materials, production, product distribution and marketing, product usage and ultimately its disposal.

This 21-month international project, funded by the European Commission, was carried out by six European countries (Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia). In Serbia, the project was led by the University of Novi Sad and its Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Office, which received additional funding from the Provincial Secretariat for Science and Technological Development. Eco-design consulting services were provided by Total Idea and Ecodesign marketing, consulting and eco-design agencies from Novi Sad.

In line with the underlying idea to raise awareness on eco-design and introduce eco tools to packaging SMEs, the Serbian project team carried out several promotional events, round tables, workshops and consulting sessions.

More than 100 enterprises were educated in eco-design via international conferences CRINSS, Renexpo and SETAC, and separate promotional and informational lectures. The Serbian project team attended numerous television shows and started a Facebook page to keep everyone informed on current activities and eco-design events.

More than 60 enterprises went through a series of one-day training sessions within the project. The lecturers (an expert team including project members and the Department of Production Engineering, the Faculty of Technical Sciences, the University of Novi Sad) taught theory and practice enabling the enterprises to introduce eco-design standards in their businesses. The entrepreneurs grasped the basics of eco-design, life-cycle assessment (LCA) and product carbon footprint.

Specifically, they were introduced to modern eco-tools used to analyse product impact on the environment. Moreover, the training sessions envisioned entrepreneurs to exchange experiences and solutions, but also to network and improve their production capacity.

The Danube Pie project provided carbon footprint analysis free of charge to eight enterprises (Ekoto, Elbe-Tir, Kuerk, Offset Print, Tramaxion, Yuco Hemija, Zdravo Produkt and Atelje Anđela) which showed greatest initiative and motivation for further improvement. The products were analysed in detail using the ECODESIGN+ tool. Each enterprise received the carbon footprint analysis and suggestions on how to improve the product’s environmental performance.

We are proud to say that some enterprises, after detailed analysis of their products, included eco-design recommendations in their business, but have also succeeded in reducing the carbon footprint percentage. For example, by using the eco-tools and recommendations by the Serbian project team, Ekoto managed to reduce the carbon footprint in their primary packaging by 40%, translating into 15% for their secondary transportation packaging.

Owing to detailed analysis, Zdravo Produkt compared two types of packaging of the same product. This showed undisputable advantage of one over the other. The packaging now emits 75% less carbon footprint, significantly reducing environmental impact and providing a high-quality competitive product.

The completion of the Danube Pie project is a major step for Serbia in terms of environmental protection via eco-design. The results are a first step which should initiate further dissemination of information and implementation of innovative processes and eco-design principles in regular business activities.

The green approach to the efficient use of materials and energy that should provide cost savings, environmental protection and introduction of new sustainable products should become the key in the production industry in order for Serbia to join the intensive battle against climate change.