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  • Dear Readers!

    In Germany super election year 2017 is well underway. The Saarland election has already taken place, with Schleswig-Holstein and the most populous of the German Länder, North Rhine-Westphalia, set to follow in May. General elections for the Bundestag will then be taking place in September. In these times of populism and fake news, this election will play a pivotal role. Germany has the strongest economy and largest population in Europe. The outcome of the election will have repercussions for all of Europe and influence economic and political relations with other countries around the world. In view of the dimensions involved, a key topic unfortunately often takes back seat: recycling and its importance to climate and environmental policy. We wanted to size things up accurately and enquired with all the major political party groups about their platforms concerning environmental policy in the upcoming legislative period and beyond. You will find a summary of the responses in this issue’s feature article and the complete responses online at remondis-aktuell.de. Whether elections turn out to be good for the climate and the environment in general and our growth sector in particular will ultimately be decided by hopefully well informed, active citizens.

    Some legislative bills have been initiated shortly before the elections – for example, the new Commercial Waste Regulation (Gewerbeabfallverordnung). It will involve important changes that have a major impact on our commercial customers when the new regulation goes into effect on 1 August 2017 at the latest. Under the new version, companies producing waste in connection with housing construction will be obligated to separately collect the waste items of paper, cardboard and pasteboard with the exception of hygienic paper, glass, plastics, metals, wood, textiles, organic waste and additional commercial and industrial waste already where it comes about, i.e. at companies themselves. The same goes for construction and demolition waste, which is already to be separated at the building site into the various waste categories such as glass, plastics, metals, wood, insulation material, bituminous mixtures, building material based on gypsum, concrete, bricks, tiles and ceramics. This is no doubt good news for improved recovery of raw materials, but it also means greater expenses for customers, who ­REMONDIS will support professionally as accustomed with practicable services in line with laws and regulations. 

    And how do things stand at present when it comes to refugee policy? The number of new persons seeking asylum arriving in Germany has dropped significantly. The biggest challenge now is to successfully integrate these people in our society and the German world of work. ­REMONDIS is taking on this challenge, hiring young people as well as persons with work experience in various fields who have lost their home as a result of war, famine and displacement and now want to venture a new beginning in their adopted country of Germany. A real win-win situation, as a successful start to a vocational career is the best contribution that can be made to a society living together in prosperity and peace. Here as well, ­REMONDIS meets its responsibility to society as a whole, acting in the spirt of its own slogan: working for the future!

    Yours

    Thomas Conzendorf

The intentions are good, the execution less so

The new Fertiliser Regulation is intended to improve water conservation. Which is no doubt a good idea with a view to the quality of drinking water, but in terms of the details goes well beyond the aim. This is because lawmakers have simply assigned the same status to all organic fertiliser in the revised law. The different ways that they work and the negative effects of individual fertilisers are for the most part not taken into account. A fatal signal for the most environmentally friendly of all the substances that improve the soil: compost.

  • Putting liquid fertiliser and compost in the same category by law does not make any sense with a view to protection of the environment and water quality

Too much liquid manure on our agricultural land

Nitrogen is an indispensable nutrient for all life on earth. But here as well, the axiom is: too much of a good thing has considerable negative effects on ecological systems. Although run-off into bodies of water has been significantly reduced over the last few years, run-off from agriculture constitutes a growing problem. Liquid manure is being applied in vast quantities on agricultural land, as extensive livestock farming has no other place to put livestock excrement. The debate over the revision of the Fertiliser Regulation has thus been raging for 3 years now. The background to this Regulation is the EU Nitrates Directive, which calls upon the Member States to adhere to certain limits in ground water. The German Fertiliser Regulation is actually the revision of the original Liquid Fertiliser Regulation and is intended to codify good technical practice in the use of fertilisers as well as reduce the risks associated with use of these substances. For good reason the original Liquid Fertiliser Regulation was limited to commercial fertiliser of animal origin, as this has also been shown to be the source of high nitrogen run-off.

The new regulation fails to differentiate

Lawmakers have now assigned all organic fertilisers the same status in the revision of the Fertiliser Regulation, however, thus placing not only liquid fertiliser, but also farmyard manure, fermentation residues, compost and sludge, in the same category in order to be able to apply uniform rules to these different materials.

REMONDIS, NABU and other associations are calling for the positive effects of humus fertiliser on the environment and soils to be assessed separately

Specifically, this involves the availability of total nitrogen in individual fertilisers, whereby 90% availability has been determined for slurry from cattle or pigs, up to 60% for liquid manure, while for compost, depending on the quality, it is only 3 to 5%. In other words: when compost is used, only 3 to 5 kg per 100 kg of total nitrogen applied is available. The negative impact on ground water by compost is correspondingly low. Farmers have to calculate the entire nitrogen content in their balance sheet on the fertiliser used, however, without this leading to any true benefits. The difference in nitrogen is required to promote humus formation. For this reason, in addition to REMONDIS, various associations and even environmental associations like NABU have over the last few months been intensively endeavouring to have the positive effects of humus fertiliser for soil and climate separately assessed and adequately taken into account.

Politicians have misjudged the situation

But neither the German Ministry for the Environment nor the Ministry of Food and Agriculture have been prepared to take the advantages of humus fertiliser sufficiently into account. Institutions that promote soil protection, humus formation and the storage of carbon, should not block off these options themselves by instituting ever more restrictions.

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