Remediation strategies, methods and financial models for decontamination and reuse of land in urban and rural areas






May 12 2022


Sep 27 2022



This topic will help to progress towards Green Deal objectives, notably the Zero Pollution Strategy. It contributes to the Mission 'A Soil Deal for Europe'[1], in particular to its specific objective 4 “Reduce soil pollution and enhance restoration”.

Project results should contribute to all of the following outcomes:

  • Private and public land managers can better prioritise and plan activities and investments for soil restoration and decontamination based on increased knowledge on the state of land and soil pollution.
  • Knowledge on technical solutions for soil decontamination and restoration is more widespread and better integrated in a wider sustainable land use and spatial planning approach.
  • Effective measures for soil restoration are in place and contribute to noticeable improvements in soil health on the medium term as well as to the circular use of land and to the achievement of no net land take in the EU by 2050.
  • Better insights into origin, fate and hotspots of pollution are made available to support assessments of hazard, exposure and risks from soil pollution.
  • MS regions affected by the need for a green transition are supported in their efforts to remediate and reuse contaminated soils such as from former mining sites and benefit from new opportunities for soil use.

Soil contamination is widely acknowledged as a severe hazard to humans as well as to soil health, affecting the ability of soils to provide ecosystem services including the provision of safe and sufficient food, clean water or habitats for biodiversity. There is a need to better understand the precise sources (both point source and diffuse pollution) and the status of soil pollution as well as its effects on soil health, the environment, and its socio-economy consequences as a basis for more effective and wide-spread remediation of soils. Given the diversity of situations regarding the type and severity of pollution as well as an incomplete view on the scale of polluted soils, effective strategies need to be in place that allow to prioritise investments, identify the most appropriate methods and financial strategies for decontamination and prepare the ground for concrete actions.

Proposed activities should:

  • Provide an overview of the state-of-play of the various types of soil pollution in Europe across the different land uses in urban and rural areas. Work should build on publicly available national contamination maps (e.g. in GIS format) to develop interactive, combined soil pollution maps that allow amongst others the identification of particular pollution hotspots.
  • Identify, quantify and characterise sources, pathways, receptors and risks of soil pollution in urban and rural areas.
  • Develop comprehensive strategies for soil restoration targeting various types of soil contamination and land uses. These strategies shall consider main areas of pollution (hotspots) and propose priorities for actions based on a site-specific risk-based approach.
  • Identify and further develop methods, tools and approaches for the monitoring and remediation of polluted soils, giving due consideration to Nature Based Solutions (NBS) and bioremediation techniques (including biotechnologies) while considering their level of development (TRL) and cost-effectiveness.
  • Develop financial and spatial planning models (taking into account social criteria) which promote the reuse of land and support the private and public sector in their decision-making for soil restoration and decontamination, in particular in areas with high investment needs.
  • Enhance the capacity for outlook and foresight reporting on soil pollution and the development of an EU priority list for contaminants of major and/or emerging concern that pose significant risks for European soil quality, and for which vigilance and priority action at European and national level is needed.
  • Explore the potential for decontamination and reuse of former mining sites to support the regions most negatively affected by the green transition through synergies with the polluter pays’ principle and the Just Transition Fund (JTF).

In implementing the work, due account should be taken of soil contamination in urban, peri-urban and rural areas.

Proposals should demonstrate a route towards open access, longevity, sustainability and interoperability of knowledge and outputs through close collaboration with the JRC’s EU Soil Observatory.

Proposals should include dedicated tasks and appropriate resources for coordination measures and joint activities with other relevant projects funded under Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe and the Research Fund for Coal and Steel, and in particular with other projects funded under this topic. Potentially, projects financed under this topic could cooperate with future Living Labs created under the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ and working in the area of soil remediation.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Digital Agenda
Artificial Intelligence

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/funding/funding-opportunities/funding-programmes-and-open-calls/horizon-europe/missions-horizon-europe/soil-health-and-food_en