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  • Dear Readers!

    “I believe in horses. Automobiles are a passing phenomenon.” These are the words said to have been uttered by the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, at the time when mobility was going through a radical change. No one can say for sure whether he really said this or not but it is a quote that is often used as an example of people badly misjudging the importance of an invention – and not just by futurologists. Today, mobility is once again undergoing a radical change. In some areas of the country, air quality has deteriorated so much that politicians, industrial businesses and consumers are being forced to rethink the way they act, in particular in large cities. The diesel scandal has simply further aggravated the situation. The first councils have begun banning old diesel cars from using the roads where air pollution is highest. At the same time, city planners are focusing almost entirely on creating living space and high quality office buildings. In contrast, tradespeople and commercial businesses, such as recycling firms, are gradually being pushed further and further outside the city. Their work though should continue to be quiet, free of dust and, wherever possible, without CO2 or NOX emissions.

    It’s definitely time to start thinking about possible alternatives. What could be better than using one of the country’s waste streams – i.e. organic waste – as a source of post-fossil fuel and, by doing so, enable waste collections to be carbon-neutral and practically free of fine particulate and NOX emissions? REMONDIS has begun a pilot project near Cologne to do just this and is currently testing six vehicles run on biogas.

    The recycling industry has a new market player: the Schwarz Group (Lidl), which has an annual turnover of EUR 96.7 billion (2017) – bigger than the whole of the German recycling sector put together. Earlier this year, the Schwarz Group’s subsidiary, Green Cycle, purchased Tönsmeier, the fifth-largest recycling company in Germany, acquiring a volume of sales three times bigger than all of the acquisitions made by REMONDIS in 2016 and 2017. Industry experts believe that the Schwarz Group will also enter Germany’s ‘Dual System’ market (kerbside collection of sales packaging) in the not too distant future.

    There is so much happening in the German recycling market at the moment – a market which, according to the “Status Report on the German Circular Economy”, has around 10,800 companies competing against each other. While none of the private sector firms has a monopoly in any area of the waste management and recycling industry, the trend towards councils renationalising waste services continues unabated leading to the creation of regional monopolies. As a result, the private sector’s share of the market is also slowly decreasing. At present, for example, its share of conventional waste collection services lies at around 50% of the overall market. As always, we hope you enjoy reading this latest issue of REMONDIS AKTUELL.

    Yours

    Thomas Conzendorf

Making the very most of wastewater

    • Contrary to popular belief, waste water does in fact contain a whole host of valuable substances which are ideal for producing bio-based raw materials. REMONDIS Aqua not only uses this potential to recover phosphorus, gypsum and iron and aluminium salts but is also involved in developing new ways to recover fats, precious metals, bioplastics and silicon. The WOW! project (Wider business Opportunities for raw materials from Waste water) gives people from numerous European countries the opportunity to work together to promote the idea of waste water treatment facilities being a rich source of top quality resources.

    The WOW! project unites many different European countries enabling them to promote waste water as a source of top quality resources

Waste water – a source of raw materials

North West Europe, in particular, has yet to recognise and make the most of the hidden treasure in their municipal and industrial waste water. A project launched this June aims to change this situation. It focuses on making all market players more aware of the value of waste water. The message is simple: they need to regard waste water as a valuable and energy-rich source of high quality raw materials to grow market opportunities, to preserve our planet’s finite resources and to protect our environment. As soon as people have started thinking about the theory, the relevant technology can then be implemented to make it possible.

Aquatic Mining

REMONDIS Aqua refers to this process as “Aquatic Mining” and has launched a number of pilot projects – initially to recover three further raw materials: cellulose, lipids and polyhydroxyalkanoates (water-insoluble fatty acids). “Waste water contains many valuable substances and yet so few of them are being used. Failing to do so, means valuable raw materials are being lost to us forever and unnecessary carbon emissions are being produced,” explained Patrick Herr, WOW! project manager at REMONDIS.

Collaborating with Luxembourg University

By developing and optimising innovative recycling and upcycling techniques, bio coal, bio oil and acetic acid can be made from recovered cellulose and bioplastics from recycled polyhydroxyalkanoate. “At the moment we are particularly involved in projects looking at biofuels. We’re collaborating with the University of Luxembourg here to test a new system that can recover lipids from sewage sludge and process them into biofuel”, Patrick Herr continued.

Dr Martin Lebek, REMONDIS Aqua, gave an interview for the Global Water Intelligence magazine in which he talked in detail about using waste water as a resource. Read more here: here

One of the long-term goals of the programme, which is being supported by Interreg North-West Europe, is to promote political discussion in Germany about the area of wastewater treatment as well as for the EU to develop a strategy plan on this subject.

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