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  • Dear Readers!

    The refugee crisis, caused by the war in Syria, has awakened Europe from a deep slumber. Individual member states are outdoing each other – introducing one uncoordinated measure after another as they attempt to stem the seemingly never-ending flow of people desperately seeking help. Whilst Chancellor Merkel is hoping to bring about a European solution, others are closing their borders and seriously thinking about exiting the European Union. No matter where you look, people are saying the party is over. It is time now for facts rather than emotions to be brought to the table. Germany has around 81 million inhabitants and its economy has never been so good. Approximately one million refugees had entered the country when the state elections were held in Baden-Württemberg, Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Pfalz on 13 March. To use the same metaphor: if 81 people are invited to a party and they are joined by one international guest, then the party is by no means over. On the contrary, there is a great opportunity here for the new guest’s culture, experience and vitality to enhance the event and make it even more interesting. 

    As Germany’s population continues to fall, demographers are assuming that the country will need around 500,000 new immigrants every year simply to keep its social security system functioning. In the future, therefore, we may find ourselves being grateful each time a migrant decides to stay and do an apprenticeship in our country. What is needed is genuine integration. The Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rainer Schmeltzer, recently published a brochure in four languages so that refugees could find out how the public transport system works in the district of Unna. Whilst talking to one of REMONDIS’ board members, he called on the recycling sector to do something similar. The majority of the migrants have little or no experience of using different coloured bins to separate waste. REMONDIS has stepped up to the mark and published a flyer in German, English, French, Farsi and Arabic. We would also be very pleased to receive applications from registered refugees wishing to do an apprenticeship at our company, for example to become a professional truck driver. 

    If the state of North Rhine-Westphalia were to be a country in its own right, then it would be among the top 10 European nations when it comes to population figures and economic power. The latest waste management report shows that our industry has become one of the biggest drivers of growth. Whilst traditional industries, such as coal, steel and energy, continue to decline, an ever increasing number of people are working in recycling, industrial and municipal services and water management. REMONDIS is both a driving force and the backbone of this really pleasing development. And what makes REMONDIS what it is, is its 32,000 employees who work for their local inhabitants and their municipal and industrial customers in 33 countries every single day. Looking at all this, it is a shame that politicians would appear to be paying so little attention to the IFAT exhibition which is being held in Munich from 30 May to 03 June. REMONDIS is going to be there even if the Federal Minister of the Environment is not. We look forward to seeing you there!


    Ludger Rethmann

Turning bottles into flakes

  • One of the most modern PET recycling plants in Europe can now be found in the north German city of Hamburg. Located on Wilhelmsburg, an island in the River Elbe, it was commissioned during the first quarter of 2016 and is able to produce up to 20,000 tonnes of flakes from used plastic drinks bottles. The PET flakes can be sent straight on to manufacturers to make new products.

A facility with three individual sections

    • The new PET recycling plant is easily accessible as it is located in Hamburg Harbour

  • When plastics are recycled for re-use, it is extremely important that the various different kinds of plastic are first separated from each other. All this involves a complex separation and cleaning process. The new PET recycling plant, therefore, primarily comprises three individual sections: the sorting area, the wet grinding mill and a washing area.

A multi-stage treatment process

Once the compacted bales of disposable PET drinks bottles arrive at the plant, they are taken to the sorting area. The system there automatically sorts the materials, removing the plastic caps, plastic film, loose labels and any other contaminants. Moreover, the bottles are separated into two fractions: one with clear bottles and the other with coloured bottles. To be able to do this work, the plant operates both ballistic separators and optical sorting equipment. The bottles are then ground into flakes in the wet grinding mill. Once this stage has been completed, the flakes are transported to the washing area where they are hot washed and dried and any remaining labels, residual glue, metals and unwanted types of plastic are removed.

The new recycling centre in Hamburg is Rhenus PET Recycling’s third plant.

A raw material for new products

The flakes of PET produced by this process have a wide range of uses. They are sent as a raw material to manufacturers of plastic film, bottles, non-food packaging, packaging tape and plastic fibres. The other types of plastic removed during the recycling process – such as screening residue, self-adhesive labels and the ground plastic caps can also be re-used once they have undergone further treatment.

The PET recycling activities in Hamburg are part of the portfolio of services offered by Rhenus Recycling GmbH, a subsidiary jointly owned by Rhenus and REMONDIS. This joint venture, which is being run by the two sister companies, founded Rhenus PET Recycling GmbH to pool together and unite its PET bottle recycling expertise under one roof.

Cooperation work with REMONDIS

  • The technical planning work for the new recycling plant was also a joint effort between Rhenus and REMONDIS – and this collaboration of minds has proven to be very successful. One of the special features of this plant, for example, is the way the process water from the hot washing stage is treated so it can be re-used, reducing volumes of wastewater to an absolute minimum.

    A further feature increasing sustainability at the site is its combined heat and power plant that is able to supply the whole of the facility with additional electricity and heat. The site’s grounds cover a total of two hectares and 12,500m2 of this space have been dedicated to buildings and covered areas for housing the plant’s technology and the large volumes of raw materials and finished products.

    The 4,000m2 building used to store incoming materials can hold more than 2,500 tonnes of used plastic bottles

  • More than 66 billion PET bottles were recycled across Europe in 2014. Recycling rates, therefore, have risen by more than 8% in five years

Huge volumes of returned bottles

Around 40 million tonnes of PET bottles are produced around the world every year making them the most popular form of drinks packaging. Over 450,000 tonnes of used PET bottles are collected in Germany alone each year. Which makes it all the more important to set up suitable recycling systems in this sector so that the product life cycles can be fully closed.

  • “Consumers really like PET bottles. Thanks to our new recycling plant in Hamburg, we are well prepared to meet the complex requirements involved in recycling such materials.” 

    Ralf Mandelatz, managing director of Rhenus Recycling in Hamburg

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