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  • Dear Readers!

    Once again the world’s largest trade fair for the water, sewage, waste and raw materials sectors has opened its gates in Munich. As in previous years, hundreds of thousands of specialists from all around the globe are expected to attend the exhibition centre in the capital city of Bavaria this year. And once again, focus will be put on modern environmental technologies which aim to increase global recycling rates and make our planet more sustainable – and rightly so. We at REMONDIS love recycling and are doing everything that is economically viable and technologically possible to promote sustainability. However, no matter what recycling efforts are made, there is still that undeniable truth which people often prefer to ignore: at the end, there are always some materials left over. Each time residual and hazardous waste is thermally treated, it generates slag; each time a road is dug up or a building demolished, it produces mineral waste and construction waste. And after all possible substances have been sent for materials or thermal recycling, the question remains ‘what to do with the residue that cannot be recycled?’ The subject of sending waste to landfill appeared to have been taken care of in Germany when the ‘TaSi’ (Technical Directive on the Recycling, Treatment and Disposal of Municipal Waste) came into force in 2005. We are, therefore, now rubbing our eyes in disbelief as it becomes clear that a lack of landfill space – a problem believed to be something of the distant past – is, slowly but surely, threatening to catch up with us again. The City of Kaiserslautern has understood what is happening and has entered into a public private partnership with REMONDIS’ subsidiary, REMEX, to build a new landfill that will be able to accept 400,000 tonnes of mineral waste each year. This, too, is something that must be done for the future of the country.

    Some years ago, Prof. Klaus Töpfer, former Federal Minister of the Environment, introduced the so-called ‘dual system’ to take the pressure off household waste landfills and to push forward the country’s recycling activities. The recycling bin (known as the yellow bin in Germany because of its yellow lid) enabled recyclable and residual waste to be collected separately from households and proved to be a success for many years. Indeed, this concept was exported to many other countries. This system is now in danger of collapsing as a result of its own loopholes. Projected volumes of correctly licensed sales packaging will fall this year to just 812,000 tonnes, a 26 percent drop compared to last year, whilst the amount of waste sales packaging actually collected will remain the same at around 2.2 million tonnes. The honest system operators are having to bear this financial ‘gap’ and no-one is able to say how long it can survive. In this issue of REMONDIS aktuell, we look more closely at the question of whether the recycling bin has a future or whether it has finally reached the end of the line.

    No matter what the future brings, waste and raw materials will still have to be transported from A to B. Looking at the growing shortage of qualified truck drivers in Germany, however, this may soon be more easily said than done. Fewer and fewer young people are choosing to join this profession which is so important for road logistics. REMONDIS has taken action to counteract this trend and is offering more apprenticeship jobs in this area. The job of a truck driver is so much better than its image. The apprenticeship course offers much more than simply learning to drive a truck – it also teaches all about vehicle technology, infrastructure, logistics and mobility.

    As always, I hope you enjoy reading this edition of REMONDIS aktuell.
    Yours

    Ludger Rethmann 

Making better use of potential recycling opportunities

It is a commonly accepted fact that Germany has very few raw material reserves of its own and must import the majority of its raw materials from other countries around the world. At the same time, around 20 million tonnes of waste are thermally treated year for year. In the best case scenario, these materials are used to generate electricity and heat. The raw materials, however, are lost to us forever. More can be done here. We must make more of the materials available to us.

A good 40% of all municipal waste is still being incinerated. And this despite the fact that the German parliament, the Bundestag, passed a recycling law in 2012 which clearly places materials recycling ahead of incineration in its 5-stage waste hierarchy. This practice has been possible because of the overcapacity in the waste incineration sector which has led to a huge fall in incineration prices and, in turn, effectively killed off efforts to promote the far more sensible materials recycling.

It is, however, vitally important for our country that these valuable raw materials are recovered, processed and returned to commercial cycles. They ensure that there is a guaranteed, stable and low-cost supply of raw materials for our manufacturing industry. The principle that applies to energy – namely transforming a business from being ”resource-greedy” to ”resource-friendly” – is, at the very least, just as important for the supply of raw materials for our industrial country.

  • ”Increasing materials recycling is most definitely in the interests of Germany. Growing the recycling sector would create more jobs”

    Rainer Deppe Member of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia, CDU Spokesperson for Climate Change, The Environment and Nature Conservation

  • The new recycling law has stipulated that organic, paper, metal, plastic and glass wastes must be segregated and collected separately across the whole of Germany. According to the law, such systems must be up and running by 01 January 2015 at the latest. Collecting waste – or perhaps it would be better if I called it raw materials – is, however, just one side of the coin. This system only becomes truly effective if the raw materials are genuinely recycled. What is decisive here, therefore, is what actually happens to the sorted raw materials. 

    All too often this is not clear. Whilst the input of materials recycling facilities is recorded in a fairly accurate way, the story of their output is rarely told. Records are not kept on whether the raw materials recovered from the materials recycling processes are really reused in production cycles or whether they are used once and only as a substitute fuel to generate energy. A future-oriented recycling sector should not be satisfied with simply having the collected volumes of recyclable waste documented. The success of such a system must be judged on what volumes of raw materials are genuinely recovered and reused. 

    The recycling law does make it obligatory for local authorities to draw up records about the volume of waste in their region and to calculate their recycling rates. The recycling methods are, however, more often than not too vague. What is lacking is a uniform system that enables recycling rates to be calculated and which would also allow comparisons to be made.

    ”Collecting waste is just one side of the coin. This system only becomes truly effective if the raw materials are genuinely recycled” 

    North Rhine-Westphalia, the largest state in Germany, should show courage here and develop a uniform and obligatory system that introduces benchmarks across the whole of its state. A transparent system that enables recycling rates to be calculated would immediately make it clear where the successes are – and, of course, the weaknesses – but at the same time it would reveal the dynamics of materials recycling. We truly believe that such a system of benchmarks would very quickly help to promote high quality recycling. 65% of all municipal waste should be recycled by 2020. Considering the fact that when the law came into force in 2012, the recycling rate for municipal waste already lay at around 64%, I personally would wish for more ambitious targets for such a highly developed industrial country.

      • Increasing materials recycling is most definitely in the interests of Germany. Not only because we would then need fewer raw material imports and so would be less dependent on others; growing the recycling sector would create more jobs. In light of the fact that raw materials are becoming scarcer and scarcer and, above all, more and more expensive, McKinsey has even identified the recycling sector as one of the industries of the future. Researchers believe that an additional 35,000 jobs could be created in North Rhine- Westphalia alone.

      Let us find the courage to develop a high quality recycling sector that processes high volumes of materials for reuse. If we set up the whole of the supply chain so that it focuses on materials recycling – from collecting the materials, to selecting the recycling methods, to sending them to recycling plants – then we will not only be helping to conserve natural resources and prevent climate change, we will also be acting in the interests of our own country.

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