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  • Dear Readers!

    There have been waste management laws in Germany for over 40 years now. At least once a decade, politicians have made some groundbreaking decisions. The “Deponieverordnung” (Landfill Ordinance), the separate kerbside collection system for waste packaging and the “TaSi”, which bans certain materials being taken to landfill and has been acting as a role model for many countries, are all examples of how they have succeeded in systematically moving the country’s waste management sector away from landfills towards more recycling. These courageous decisions, which more often than not involve large investments, have primarily been implemented by private sector businesses but also by municipal waste management companies. We have reached that crossroads again. Germany has to decide which direction it wishes to move in and just how sustainable it wishes to become. The country’s upper house, the Bundesrat, has instructed the Government to submit a draft bill for a new recyclables law by the end of the year, presenting a unique opportunity for them to catapult German recycling activities into a completely new dimension. It is a well-known fact that waste is a source of raw materials. According to a recent INFA study, a further 95kg of recyclable materials could be collected per person per year. The signals coming from the Ministry of the Environment, however, are not particularly encouraging. Here, they are obviously thinking of limiting this new law to waste packaging and wastes made of similar materials. When recycling bins were first introduced in Germany, they were used exclusively for collecting old sales packaging. The decision to allow them to also be used for waste made of similar materials was made a while ago now and it is estimated that this move would only increase the amount of recyclables collected by an additional 5kg per person per year. At REMONDIS, we believe even this figure to be illusory as our experience from collecting, sorting and recycling the contents of the recycling bins has shown that many people are already throwing wastes made of similar materials to packaging into the bin – an intelligent move even if they are not supposed to do this. If politicians limit the new law to just this area, then it will, for the most part, be completely ineffective. We are, therefore, calling on politicians to act as visionaries and be courageous. Make the most of this unique opportunity and set ambitious collection and recycling rates. This is the only way to ensure Germany has a secure supply of raw materials and that everything possible is done to prevent climate change.

    Developing sustainability in the water and recycling sectors is just beginning in Asia. Materials recycling has been neglected in this region for far too long and has hardly been able to keep up with the exponential growth on the continent. Singapore is now looking to do more in this area. One of the latest projects of the country’s National Environmental Agency (NEA) involves a new facility to process slag from waste incineration plants and recover ferrous and non-ferrous metals at the same time. REMEX is the company responsible for building and operating it. Once again, Singapore is forging ahead and acting as a role model for other densely populated regions in Asia.

    Back in Germany, REMONDIS continues to extend its successful cooperation work with local authorities. The recently founded AWIGO Logistik GmbH is the company’s latest joint venture – a public private partnership between the administrative district of Osnabrück and REMONDIS’ regional company, REMONDIS Nord.

    As always, I hope you enjoy reading about these and the many other topics in this latest issue of REMONDIS aktuell.

    Yours

    Max Köttgen 

Heading towards greater sustainability

Whilst passing the 7th amendment to the German Packaging Ordinance at the beginning of July 2014, the country’s upper house, the Bundesrat, also instructed the German government to submit a draft bill for the long overdue recyclables law within the next six months. If the relevant players from the worlds of politics and business use this opportunity to set the right course for the future, then Germany can take a huge step forwards – towards greater sustainability, towards becoming less dependent on raw material exports and towards making massive inroads into preventing climate change. The potential is there. REMONDIS is calling on all those involved in the decision-making process to find the necessary courage to take the plunge and catapult Germany towards a more environmentally and resource friendly future.

Making the very most of recyclables

  • There is one thing that everyone agrees on: it is essential that the very most is made of the recyclable materials and energy found in municipal waste, as Germany and the EU have so few natural raw materials of their own. However, Germany – which likes to call itself the ‘world champions in recycling’ and acts as a role model for so many other countries – is still a long way from doing this. Just how far can be seen in a recent study carried out by INFA GmbH on behalf of GEMINI (a joint initiative). This study had two main aims: to draw up ambitious collection targets for the different types of segregated recyclable waste and to find out what the maximum – and realistic – materials recycling rates actually are.

    Click here to download a PDF version of the INFA study on collection volumes and recycling rates (German only)

Empirical “waterproof” study reveals true recycling potential

The INFA study looked at all standard recyclables: old paper, glass, organic and garden waste, metals, plastics, drinks cartons and old wood. In order to be able to get a realistic picture of the current situation in the German cities and districts and of their future collection and recycling potential, their settlement patterns were examined and divided up into five clusters according to population density. As the goal of a new recyclables law should be to grow materials recycling in Germany, the figures – giving the minimum volumes of recyclables (in kg) which could be collected per person per year – refer solely to recyclables which are segregated and collected separately. Moreover, it also took recyclable materials into account which are currently collected as part of the bulky waste collection service – both those picked up individually and those removed from the bulky waste for recycling.

  • “If Germany is serious when it says it wants to grow sustainability and prevent climate change, then we need a recyclables law with ambitious collection and recycling rates.”

    Ludger Rethmann, Vorstandsvorsitzender REMONDIS

Hard facts – not science fiction

This here is not waste science fiction. What makes this study so good is the fact that it bases its calculations on the volumes of segregated recyclables currently already being collected as well as on the potential volumes of recyclables which could be collected (also based on hard facts). Its data is based on the nationwide figures provided by public sector waste management businesses for 2011 and on the data gathered from analyses of different types of sorted waste. The results are as impressive as they are encouraging. The study presents two alternatives which could also be introduced gradually in a series of steps should they be included in a new recyclables law.

The best possible scenario is already reality at 25% of the public sector waste management businesses.

Option 1 is based on the average amount of recyclables ac­tually being collected at the moment in each cluster and on the potential volume of recyclables still found in residual waste bins. An additional volume of recyclables – which could potentially be collected – was defined for each cluster and added to the current mean value. This figure was not simply the product of someone’s imagination. It was based on the maximum amount of recyclables known to be in residual waste as well as on that from bulky waste collections.

Option 2 effectively reflects the “Champions League of recycling”. It shows the true potential i.e. the maximum amounts that could be collected and recycled. These exemplary collection rates could be used as future benchmarks – and they are volumes which are already being achieved today by 25 percent of the public sector waste management businesses with, and indeed thanks to, the support given by their private sector partners. 

New law can pave the way for a genuine recycling societ

A figure defining the maximum volumes of recyclables found in residual waste was given in addition to the volumes actually being collected. This could be used by waste collection and recycling businesses as a guide should they not reach their intended collection targets. This figure is also oriented towards the amount of recyclables found in the residual waste collected by the public sector waste management businesses that are in the top 25 percent of each cluster. If, therefore, one quarter of all cities and districts already collect these ambitious volumes, then no-one can seriously try and claim that such targets are not possible. Ideally, the new recyclables law could set the standards and be an incentive for the remaining 75 percent, for them to catch up in their attempts to become more sustainable. This would then pave the way towards creating a genuine recycling society. The potential volumes listed in the INFA study for each individual fraction are staggering:

Nothing will change unless politicians increase recycling rates.

Even if other influences such as demographic and consumer changes were not taken into account, the amount of recyclables collected could be increased by 5.6 million tonnes or 70kg per capita (option 1) or even by 7.8 million tonnes or 95kg per capita (option 2) if all the cities and districts were to reach these targets.

REMONDIS is showing how it’s done – now it’s the politicians’ turn

Being Germany’s largest recycling, services and water company, REMONDIS has already shown that it is technically possible to collect and recycle segregated waste efficiently. This family run company, based in Lünen, collects, sorts and processes up to 30 million tonnes of materials every year. Indeed, the private sector plays a decisive role here helping local authorities to reach their ambitious recycling goals. The majority of waste in Germany – around 95 percent – is collected by private sector businesses. Moreover, they pro­cess and sort approx. 98 percent of all waste and around 85 percent of all materials recycling activities are carried out by private companies.

The same old story: ‘Who should do the work?’ rather than ‘How much can we achieve together?’

Unfortunately, practically all the discussions currently being held ahead of the legislative process regarding the new recyclables law are focusing on the question of who is responsible for what. And what’s worse: the signals coming from Berlin indicate that the new recyclables law might focus solely on waste made of similar materials to packaging waste i.e. on just 1.5 percent of all household waste. If all this extra waste were to be collected, then this would increase the volume of recyclables collected by a mere 5kg per person per year. Nowhere near the volume that could potentially be collected, namely 95kg. Furthermore, it is questionable whether the collection of waste made of similar materials to waste packaging would actually increase volumes by 5kg per person. Companies currently commissioned to process waste packaging have noticed that local inhabitants are already throwing away products made of similar materials into the recycling bin – an intelligent move even though they are not supposed to do this. Instead of having ambitious recycling goals at the core of this new law, all signs are pointing towards the political decision-makers using it to simply clarify the different collection systems. This is not “taking the plunge”. 

A close look at the recycling bin

  • It is essential that the future of the dual system becomes a part of the whole “collection of recyclables in Germany” package. In light of the crisis facing the dual system (see also Latest News 1), REMONDIS has joined “GemIni” (a joint initiative to abolish the dual system) which is financed by various public and private waste management and recycling businesses. REMONDIS believes that priority should be put on looking at how to make the most of the potential hidden in household waste and not on focusing on the old and boring question: who should do the work – the public or the private sector.

    Sustainable success is only possible if there is fair competition between the public and private sectors.

    For a private sector firm such as REMONDIS, it would be a huge step forward if politicians were to change their position and concentrate instead on increasing the volumes of materials collected. It is possible to live with the current public procurement system as long as there is fair competition and local authorities are obliged to put the services, which local inhabitants are to receive, out to tender and not to squeeze the private sector out of the market via in-house arrangements.

    Click here to watch an interview with Herwart Wilms on the new recyclables law 

Why increase volumes of recyclables by only 5kg if 95kg are possible?

The current recycling law does not really contain any notable incentives to encourage local authorities to have all their municipal waste recycled using high quality and environmentally friendly processes. To ensure this error is not repeated, the new recyclables law must make it clear in which direction the waste management sector must move and create the necessary legal framework so that raw material efficiency is increased, the recyclable materials found in municipal waste undergo high quality recycling processes and further opportunities are opened up. REMONDIS will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that the very most is made of the raw materials found in waste.

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