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  • Dear Readers!

    Germany has set itself some ambitious goals in its move to support global efforts to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting gases – first and foremost CO2. On signing the Kyoto Protocol, the governments agreed to reduce emissions so that global temperature increases are limited to below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. According to the Federal government, Germany’s contribution is to have cut its emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 and by 80 to 95 percent by 2050 compared to carbon emission levels in 1990. This goal should primarily be reached by extending the country’s network of renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency.

    Germany has set itself some ambitious goals in its move to support global efforts to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting gases – first and foremost CO2. On signing the Kyoto Protocol, the governments agreed to reduce emissions so that global temperature increases are limited to below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. According to the Federal government, Germany’s contribution is to have cut its emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 and by 80 to 95 percent by 2050 compared to carbon emission levels in 1990. This goal should primarily be reached by extending the country’s network of renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency.

    The country’s simultaneous exit from nuclear power, however, has been like starting an experiment with an uncertain outcome. It has certainly got the network technicians reacting nervously to the slightest glitch in the system – as could be seen recently during the partial solar eclipse in Germany. In extreme cases, there can be fluctuations of up to fourteen gigawatts an hour – the result of the rapid growth of renewable energy sources – and these must be compensated for with electricity generated from fossil fuels. This is making it extremely difficult for the Federal government to reach its climate goals and so it is essential that moves are made to find alternative ways of cutting emissions. This is where the recycling sector can help. Aside from the fact that our sector is the only industry to have succeeded in completely turning itself around – from being an emitter of greenhouse gases as a result of sending organic material to landfill, to cutting carbon emissions through recycling and thermal treatment – there are still a number of other ways it can help prevent climate change. If the government makes the necessary adjustments now, i.e. with its new recyclables law, and ensures that the very most is made of the material and thermal potential of the recyclables in our waste, then our sector alone can achieve 6% of the 2020 climate goals. This has been proven by studies carried out by the Fraunhofer UMSICHT Institute. 

    Being one of the largest recycling, water and service companies, REMONDIS is already making an important contribution towards preventing climate change and conserving our planet’s natural resources. We would be very happy to be allowed to do even more. Introducing organic waste bins across the country is an important step towards achieving a more sustainable future. More and more often the public and private sectors are approaching each other to find ways of protecting the environment together to ensure future generations also have a world worth living in. Whilst it is certainly too early to say there has been a complete change of heart, one fact remains true: the public and private sectors are stronger when they work together – especially when they are looking to achieve ambitious goals!

    The term ‘sustainability’ may have been overused in recent years but it still depicts best the challenges that all industrial and commercial businesses must face – both now and in the future. Many of our customers have added our sustainability certificate to their business models. The Steigenberger hotel group, for example, has not only achieved the best recycling rates in their industry thanks to REMONDIS, their “Green Meeting“ concept, verified by our sustainability certificate, has given this successful hotel business a truly unique selling point. We are happy to help wherever we can! 

    Yours

    Thomas Conzendorf

The public sector needs help

Even though the current trend towards renationalisation – via remunicipalisation – may tell another tale, both economic experts and fee payers are becoming more and more sceptical about the ability of local authorities to run a business. It is very rare to find a municipal business run solely by a local authority that is in the black. Depending on which political party is in power, one of the key arguments for operating municipal companies is that they provide secure jobs. Is this actually true though? A closer look at the current situation has brought some interesting facts to light.

Municipal business activities criticised

  • In its 20th Annual Report, the Monopolies Commission (an independent expert committee which advises the German government) makes the following statement regarding municipal business activities – quoting the Monopolies Commission Chairman, Professor Daniel Zimmer: “The overexpansion of municipal economic activities can give rise to distortions of competition and lead to a shift of significant financial risk to society. In addition, the level of fees and charges for the services of municipal undertakings is not subject to any functioning efficiency control at the moment, leading to additional charges for the public. Therefore, appropriate conditions must be established for better supervision by the public, the decision-makers and the supervisory authorities.” 

Private sector partners are good for the environment

The Monopolies Commission also has a very clear position on waste management activities. In its press release of July 2014, it says: “As concerns the disposal of household waste, the tender procedures have been successful for long, particularly in rural areas, showing that private undertakings can provide the required services at least at the same high quality as the municipal utilities.

Public private partnerships will continue to be a robust business model for achieving greater quality and efficiency.

Several arguments militate in favour of the assumption that an enlargement of the municipal tenders for household waste disposal would not only alleviate the burden on the general public, but also have ecological advantages.” The latter can primarily be put down to the fact that practically all the recycling plants that are able to recover materials for re-use – such as aluminium, copper, paper and plastics – came about thanks to private sector investment and are also operated by private sector companies. Such operations are in line with current European waste legislation which places the re-use of materials second in its waste hierarchy below the preferred option of reducing volumes of waste. The fact that many local authorities have chosen to send their household waste for thermal treatment over the last few decades can be put down to historical and financial factors. Nowadays, though, this method would appear to be more than outdated, not least thanks to the falling incineration prices and the ever-growing awareness for environmental issues.

Public sector jobs are by no means secure

Three examples of traditional municipal activities – waste management, water management and local public transport – show that public sector jobs are by no means as secure as is sometimes claimed (see chart). The municipal water authorities in Berlin, for example, reduced the size of their workforce by around 38 percent between 1994 and 2013. During the same period, the municipal firm responsible for city maintenance in Berlin cut the number of people they employed by approx. 47 percent. In 2013, the Rheinbahn railway business employed almost 38% fewer people than it did back in 1992.

What is important is to reduce the financial risk for local residents and to secure jobs.

In contrast, the many successful public private partnerships – especially those involving REMONDIS – have not only demonstrated that their business methods and operations are more efficient, they are also much better at increasing and maintaining the size of their workforce. 

Change in the no. of employees

  • A long-term look at a selection of large corporations operated primarily by local authorities

PPP in Frankfurt an excellent example

  • One such example is Frankfurter Entsorgungs- und Service GmbH (FES), the largest public private partnership that REMONDIS operates together with the City of Frankfurt. 1,529 people were working for FES when the public private partnership first started in 1995. Today, there are now 1,669 employees who provide top quality services and ensure fees remain stable. This is a striking example of how PPPs can have a positive impact on jobs. A look at the development of the workforce at REMONDIS and its sister companies is equally impressive. Since 1999, this family run business has increased the number of people it employs in Germany by 243 % – and globally by even 342 % – so that it currently has just under 59,000 employees. With these impressive figures and its commitment to always provide the best value for money, REMONDIS also succeeds in growing efficiency at its municipal partners’ businesses. Whether it be part of a public private partnership or providing individual services for local authorities: when the public and private sectors work together, the result is greater quality, efficiency and job security. 

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