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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

A unique job

  • The industrial divers climb down into the sewage sludge wearing close-fitting, rubberised full-body suits and a 12kg helmet and carrying equipment weighing 65 kilos. Their job: to remove the deposits and solids from the warm (ca. 40 °C), viscous mixture of brown water and digested sludge. Working for their client EURAWASSER, these specialists are able to carry out their work without the facility having to be shut down. At the same time they protect the billions of tiny helpers: the bacteria responsible for breaking down the organic material.

Vacuum work in 70-minute shifts

The environmental divers worked in 70-minute shifts using suction equipment to clean the 15-metre high tower at the central sewage treatment plant in Goslar. This length of time was necessary as divers must always ascend very slowly to the surface. Nitrogen bubbles accumulate in divers’ joints when they are under water which cause pain similar to rheumatism. These are broken down when divers move slowly upwards towards the surface.

    Working in completely black surroundings

    The divers had direct voice contact with their colleagues on the tower and they were also connected to a hose enabling them to cool themselves down with water if necessary – helping them to keep calm in these completely black surroundings. The consistency of the liquid helped them judge their position, as the sludge-water mixture is less thick in the middle of the digester. The further they moved towards the walls, therefore, the thicker the sludge became. Other resources were used to help them find their bearings such as ladders which were laid across the inside of the tank.

    Industrial divers must also make safety stops as they move upwards towards the surface.

    “The last time the tower was emptied, cleaned and renovated was 20 years ago,” explained Jörg Hinke, head of water management technology at EURAWASSER, the operator of the sewage treatment plant. The build-up of deposits reduces the capacity of the digester which in turn considerably slows down the digestion process. By deploying environmental divers to clean the facility, there is no need to remove the sludge. Operations in the digester can continue as usual which means the bacteria, which are primarily responsible for breaking down the organic material in the wastewater, are not destroyed. 

    Video impressions of the cleaning work carried out on the digester.

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