The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is providing EUR 42.8 million to fund construction of the new urban waste processing and power generation plant for a pool of local authorities encompassing Saint-Germain-en-Laye and neighbouring municipalities in the Yvelines department (Ile-de-France). The EIB loan has been granted to Azalys - a subsidiary of the Lyonnaise des Eaux group given responsibility for the project by the Syndicat Intercommunal pour la destruction des résidus urbains (SIDRU) - via Crédit Lyonnais (lead-manager of the financing consortium and agent) and Crédit local de France-Dexia (co-lead manager).

The project involves the construction of an urban waste processing plant in the municipality of Carrières-sous-Poissy, north-west of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The plant, with a nominal capacity of 115 000 tonnes/year, will handle household refuse and ordinary industrial waste from a group of municipalities with a combined population of around 200 000. The technology used meets the most stringent environmental standards.

Construction of this facility forms part of the departmental plan for urban waste in Yvelines drawn up in response to French legislation which prohibits the landfilling of untreated waste as from 2002. By replacing the current temporary and inadequate arrangements for waste processing (landfill sites and incineration outside the Yvelines department), the new system will offer a long-term solution for Saint-Germain-en-Laye and neighbouring municipalities.

The operation ties in with EIB activity in favour of protecting the environment, an objective for which some EUR 6.2 billion was advanced in 1998, including EUR 1.8 billion for schemes aimed at safeguarding the natural environment (water and waste management, combating atmospheric pollution). In particular, EUR 214 m was accorded for projects involving the processing of solid waste in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Portugal and Sweden as well as for the new waste processing plant in the Chartres area. In France again, the EIB has previously provided financing for waste processing schemes in Nancy, Nantes and Cergy-Pontoise plus funding, through global loans, for several hundred small and medium-scale environmental infrastructure schemes implemented by local authorities.

This environmental protection scheme also comes under the Amsterdam Special Action Programme (ASAP) set up by the EIB to foster growth and employment in Europe. The purpose of ASAP is to direct a substantial proportion of EIB lending towards projects in the labour-intensive sectors of health, education, environmental protection and urban renewal. In the twenty months since it has been operational, ASAP has resulted in EIB commitments to finance 82 operations in these sectors for a total of over EUR 8.3 billion embracing all EU Member Countries. ASAP also includes a special "SME window" to facilitate access for SMEs to venture capital, in partnership with the banking sector: twenty-five operations, totalling almost EUR 500 million, together with the setting-up of the European Technology Facility (ETF) - administered under mandate from the EIB by the European Investment Fund (EIF) and allocated EUR 125 million in funds - have already been arranged under the ASAP "SME window".