Enterprise Europe Network

BalBok: Hunting hazardous waste in Bulgaria

Posted: 07 Oct 2016

With the help of the Network, Dr Lilia Jeliazkova and her company, BalBok Engineering, embarked on a mission to hunt down and clean up hazardous waste by using a cutting-edge mobile laboratory.

Balbok mobile lab

During the 1990s in Bulgaria many factories, business and farms didn’t dispose of their waste properly leaving stockpiles of unknown and often hazardous chemicals behind. With the help of the Enterprise Europe Network, Dr Lilia Jeliazkova and her company, BalBok Engineering, embarked on a mission to hunt down and treat this environmental threat by using a cutting-edge mobile laboratory.

In 1988 Dr Lilia Jeliazkova developed a technology to dispose of radioactive waste for Bulgaria’s only nuclear power plant. From this idea she decided to set up BalBok Engineering which has helped clean up hazardous waste across Bulgaria for over 20 years. In 2014 she decided to expand BalBok’s services and tackle one of the Balkan region’s biggest environmental threats.  

"Management of unknown hazardous waste is very complicated," said Dr Jeliazkova. "We need to identify it, determine its origin and composition; all before preparing it for suitable treatment."

Unknown hazardous waste could be toxic, flammable, corrosive, infectious and even carcinogenic. BalBok’s catch-all solution to clean up such risky materials came in the shape of a mobile and central laboratory, which could collect samples and identify waste of unknown origins. To help them prepare for such a colossal task they sought the advice of ARC Consulting, a Bulgarian Member of the Enterprise Europe Network, the world's largest support network for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with international ambitions.

ARC Consulting helped BalBok devise a number of actions and measures that made their waste management idea more efficient. As part of this ARC Consulting and BalBok came up with an innovation strategy, identifying new services to introduce to the market and adopting a set of indicators to monitor the company’s innovation performance.

Next, ARC Consulting guided BalBok through the application process of the "Green Industry Innovation Program" for Bulgaria, part of the Norway Grants of 2009-14. BalBok were subsequently awarded over EUR 370 000.

"What BalBok proposed in their project was brand new, not just for the company, but also for the country and the Balkan region," said Daniela Tchonkova, Programme Coordinator at ARC Consulting and Coordinator of the Network in Bulgaria. "It is expected to lead to optimisation of their company and reduce the cost of their services which will increase their market potential."

"We can now reach more people and change their attitudes to waste," said Dr Jeliazkova. "And it’s not only for companies, it can be for schools and households too."

The collaboration between ARC Consultancy and BalBok has helped create jobs for chemists and specially trained drivers while more are expected in the near future as the business of cleaning hazardous waste of unknown origin expands. 

"This type of waste, historically accumulated during the period of change after 1989, is not just in Bulgaria, but in other countries of the Eastern bloc as well," says Dr Jeliazkova. "The realisation of the project will create the opportunity for many new companies to finally solve long standing problems with their waste."

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