Tougher EU environmental regulations are forcing up costs in the olive oil industry, which is becoming less competitive against processors operating under less stringent conditions outside the bloc, project organisers say. The Integrated Approach to Sustainable Olive Oil and Table Olive Product (NASOOP) is an EU-funded project that this week said it had completed research on a set of guidelines to help the industry reduce costs and waste. The EU is the world's largest producer of olives and olive oil, with Spain, Italy and Greece alone accounting for 80 per cent of total world production. However, the industry also produces about 10 million tonnes of residues each year, which cause soil pollution and other problems. NASOOP brings together mill associations, processors, producers and researchers to create a set of standards the industry can follow. Most the 12,000 olive producers in the EU are small and medium enterprises (SME), which are struggling to cope with environmental regulations, organisers said. The guidelines being developed are based on a project that studied the industry's operations. The Bremerhaven Techology-Transfer-Centre, which led the project examined the processing in different countries in an effort to learn best practices. The project will now address the industry's environmental issues, including reducing energy and water use during processing and introducing new technologies. Informing processors how they can comply with current and future legislation forms an important part of the project. The project also aims to improve the image of the industry, which should increase the value and competitiveness of the EU industry, organisers claim. The aim is to integrate European environmental quality standards (EQS) into olive oil and table olives production in a cost effect way.