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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.

    Ludger Rethmann 

Answering the questions of tomorrow today

  • Germany’s so-called ‘energy turnaround’, i.e. to change its energy supply from fossils to renewables, is in full swing even if the process has been slowed down a little as a result of the new political constellation in Berlin following the last general election. The move towards wind power, photovoltaics and improving energy efficiency levels of buildings is progressing faster than originally planned. If this hugely important project is to be a true success, however, then the question of how to recycle this new environmental technology must also be taken into consideration right from the start.

Sustainable energy thought through to the end

  • Wind turbines also have a limited ‘shelf life’. The same is true for solar cells and the material used to insulate buildings. If a truly sustainable energy sector is to be created, then it must include the recycling and extensive re-use of the materials that make such an energy turnaround possible in the first place. REMONDIS is, therefore, calling for the creation of take-back systems targeted precisely at such materials so that sustainable processes can be set up to ensure such energy technology is returned to the economic cycle.

    REMONDIS is carrying out tests to develop ways of recycling composite insulation boards.

    Germany has not been slow to introduce take-back systems in the past. There are now take-back systems for waste electrical equipment, for batteries, for old industrial and commercial plastic packaging and there is even a take-back system for used photovoltaic modules, the latter being the first step ever taken to recycle renewable energy equipment. However, simply taking back a material is not enough. It is a long path before a commercially viable recycling method can be developed.

Cooperation work with the University of Münster

  • The pilot tests are being carried out at a plant in Mettmann to see how composite insulation boards can be separated

  • REMONDIS recently carried out a pilot test. As part of its research and development activities, the company has been working together with students at the University of Münster and carrying out practical tests to see whether the individual parts of composite insulation boards, which are being used more and more on buildings nowadays, really can be separated from each other and recycled. These tests are being held at R&R Rohstoffrückgewinnung und Recycling’s plant in Mettmann in North Rhine-Westphalia, a company partly owned by REMEX.

First positive results

The results have been promising. The tests have shown that it is possible to separate the individual components of these boards without having to change the everyday operations of a construction waste sorting facility. Looking at the majority of the output, however, it has not yet reached the quality for materials recycling. Initial conclusions are that the components could be separated more cleanly from each other by changing the amount of time the material spends in the mechanical sections of the plant or storage areas or by using other types of mechanical processes. The next tests to be carried out by the University of Mu?nster will shed further light on this issue.

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