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  • Dear Readers!

    Many people in Europe could hardly believe the news when they woke up on 24 June to discover a slim majority of Britons had voted in favour of Brexit. Leading economists, politicians, business people, artists and scientists had repeatedly called for the UK to remain in the EU so that the problems of globalisation could be tackled together as one strong community. Their words were in vain; the majority of Britons decided that the best way forward was to take a step back towards the sup­posedly good old days of 'splendid isolation'. No-one at that time, however, could have anticipated that this was just a precursor of an even bigger political earthquake. On 08.11. American voters elected Donald Trump to be their next president. Never before had the country experienced such a populist movement and his comments do not bode well either for the global economy or for a peaceful co-existence between nations. Only time will tell whether or to what extent President Trump will try and change global economic and political structures. Only then will we be able to see what impact this will all have on Europe. However, no matter how much the new President tries to deny the very existence of climate change, there is one thing that is clear right now: the world’s population will continue to grow and the challenges of meeting people’s needs and tackling the planet’s environmental problems will not become easier in the future. Our recommendation to Donald Trump, therefore, would be to take a look at the country of his ancestors – at Germany, where solutions are already being developed to create a sustainable supply of raw materials for the future.  

    Over 40 years ago, when the recycling sector was just beginning to find its feet in Germany (thanks also to the many contributions made by REMONDIS), there were approx. 3.5 billion people living on our planet. At that time, recycling was considered by many to be nothing more than a bit of a gimmick. The world had enough raw materials and plenty of space for storing waste – so why do more than we have to? The human race needed just under 100,000 years to reach 3.5 billion people. This figure has doubled within just 40 years! By 2050, it is expected to rise to 10 billion. The so-called Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year, was even earlier this year: on 08 August. Since then, we have effectively been living as if we have a second planet to fall back on.

    The recycling sector already offers solutions to these problems at a number of different levels: supplying raw materials, generating energy, protecting water supplies and the environment, curbing global warming and even taking on social responsibilities. 14% of the raw materials used in Germany are supplied by the recycling industry, an important step to separating economic growth and the consumption of natural resources from one another. If our production processes are to be sustainable and affordable in the future, then all products and raw materials must be recovered and reused. For this to be possible, however, politicians around the world must drive this development and introduce ambitious laws to ensure it happens. We need higher recycling targets and mandatory ecodesign guidelines that force manufacturers to design their products so that they can be fully recycled once they reach the end of their useful life.

    Recycling would be become mandatory in a future where all raw materials and products – no matter whether it be a smartphone, car or plane – must be designed in line with ecological criteria. Children working in mines in third world countries would be a thing of the past. Wars would no longer be fought to gain access to natural resources. Innovative processes would mean that our wastewater could be used to produce clean drinking water and as a source of phosphorus for fertilisers, building supplies and energy. Collecting and recycling organic waste around the globe and turning it into high quality compost or using it to generate renewable energy would, for the most part, solve the problem of climate change – and also provide great prospects for growth.

    With this optimistic look into the future, may I wish you and your families a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

    Ludger Rethmann

Recycling products with no loss in quality

  • The idea of being able to recycle products endlessly with absolutely no loss in quality is as inconceivable to some people today as megacities were just a few decades ago. What many may believe is just wishful thinking has already been turned into a scientifically robust concept by the chemist and visionary, Professor Michael Braungart: the Cradle to Cradle® design concept (C2C). Looking at the limited supplies of natural reserves our planet has to offer, we will have no choice but to adopt this idea and ensure that absolutely all materials are recycled and reused.

The goal: a waste-free society

According to Professor Braungart, all goods should circulate in one of two possible cycles in the future – either in a biological or a technical cycle. The result would be a society that produces absolutely no waste and that can live off the nutrients and materials available to them on a permanent basis. For this to be possible, however, each and every product must be designed so that it is fully recyclable.

The Cradle to Cradle® concept is being implemented by the EPEA, a research institute that has also been advising REMONDIS for many years now. Whilst, at first glance, the overall objective of C2C – i.e. to create a world without waste – may appear to be at odds with REMONDIS’ business model, it does in fact support the efforts being made by the recycling industry to encourage firms to manufacture products that are fully recyclable. The collaboration work between the EPEA and REMONDIS aims to improve processes, technologies and services so that they reflect a holistic approach to recycling.

REMONDIS undergoes a C2C check

  • This year, for example, the EPEA examined the way REMONDIS recycles commercial food waste to make new products and generate energy to see whether the systems being used meet its strict criteria and reflect the C2C quality standards. All of the organic waste collected by REMONDIS has been separated from other types of waste so that it can be sent for recycling. The valuable nutrients, therefore, can be recovered and reused – which is precisely what C2C is all about. By being used to produce biogas, fertiliser and biodiesel, they are returned to the biological cycle in line with the C2C principle. Over 98% of the organic material processed by REMONDIS is transformed into new top quality products. In its certificate, the EPEA underlines the fact that “this recycling system is making a valuable contribution towards achieving an integral C2C resource economy”. REMONDIS’ food waste recycling system was the first of its business areas to be checked by the EPEA.This year, for example, the EPEA examined the way REMONDIS recycles commercial food waste to make new products and generate energy to see whether the systems being used meet its strict criteria and reflect the C2C quality standards. All of the organic waste collected by REMONDIS has been separated from other types of waste so that it can be sent for recycling. The valuable nutrients, therefore, can be recovered and reused – which is precisely what C2C is all about. By being used to produce biogas, fertiliser and biodiesel, they are returned to the biological cycle in line with the C2C principle. Over 98% of the organic material processed by REMONDIS is transformed into new top quality products. In its certificate, the EPEA underlines the fact that “this recycling system is making a valuable contribution towards achieving an integral C2C resource economy”. REMONDIS’ food waste recycling system was the first of its business areas to be checked by the EPEA.

  • C2C has reached the NRW Ministry for Economic Affairs: read the study looking at how C2C can be adopted into NRW’s economy (on which REMONDIS was also consulted) (German only) here

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