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  • Dear Readers!

    This editorial was written and ready for print and focused primarily on the EU’s Green Deal. And then coronavirus spread around the world and the text had to be revised. Despite the current situation, though, the Green Deal remains one of the most important projects for the European circular economy. And many other things have happened as well – the question surrounding DSD, for example.

    It is now official. On 22 April 2020, the first Cartel Panel of the Higher Regional Court [Oberlandesgericht] of Düsseldorf dismissed our appeal against the Cartel Office’s decision. Their ruling surprised us as we were sure that we had the better arguments in favour of us acquiring Duales System Deutschland GmbH. But we live under the rule of law and we will, of course, accept their decision. What we need to do now is to take the time required to take a detailed look at the Panel’s reasons for dismissing our appeal and then carefully decide what our next steps should be. In light of the fact that all other major competitors operate in this market, it will be interesting to see to what extent REMONDIS will get involved in the Dual System in the future.

    It is not so easy to look ahead at the moment, though, faced with the current coronavirus emergency. When the first media reports came through on 29 December last year that China had informed the WHO that it had an unexplained cluster of people suffering from an unidentified lung disease, no one realised just how hard or how fast this virus would affect the globalised economy. It is practically impossible to estimate the costs incurred by the economy grounding to a halt as a result of the virus. And it is not just the private sector that has felt the impact. Many city and district authorities were already in financial difficulties before the crisis began. Their situation can only get worse, now that their revenue from local business tax and their takings from their local amenities have plummeted. Maybe it is time to set aside old arguments and enter into long-term partnerships with the private sector that will benefit both parties – especially when it comes to delivering essential public services. Setting up public private joint ventures dedicated to providing essential services could help mitigate the consequences of the crisis. At the end of the day, ‘a load shared is a load halved’. One positive coming from these unprecedented times is the increased sense of solidarity among the population and towards many sections of the economy. REMONDIS, too, is there to help and support its municipal partners – during this crisis more than ever.

    Past pandemics have rarely lasted longer than two years. At some stage – whether with or without a vaccine – public life and business will return to normal. This will be the moment when it will become clear to all that our planet’s biggest problem – climate change – has not solved itself. Once again, the spotlight will be turned on the European Union’s Green Deal. Looking at a list published from within the EU, there is a danger of important regulations being watered down, especially in the area of the circular economy. In contrast, the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, expressly advises against neglecting climate action and environmental protection following the Covid-19 crisis in its ad-hoc statement published on 14 April 2020. In fact, it recommends the exact opposite. The economy must be kick-started so that it can grow again and should, it says, be “guided more firmly than before by considerations of sustainability, not least because this offers vast potential for economic growth.” Climate change is and will continue to be the biggest challenge for the future and REMONDIS, being one of the leading water and recycling businesses, will continue to put forward its solutions and play an important role.

    With this in mind: stay safe and stay positive.

    Thomas Conzendorf

A new man at the top

  • A new face has been leading REMONDIS Trade and Sales – the company specialising in recycling and marketing recovered paper – since November. In a recent interview, Frederik Jastrembski (32), the company’s new managing director, talked about the business he is now in charge of – one he describes as being both susceptible to change and exciting at the same time.

Good morning Mr Jastrembski, coming from Hamburg, you know all about bad weather. Just how stormy is it on the waste paper market at present?

  • Frederik Jastrembski: It’s definitely experiencing squally winds at the moment – something even I am not used to despite coming from Hamburg. Prices plummeted soon after I took up my job in November – so much so that some kinds of recovered paper were at below-zero pricing. The Covid-19 crisis and the lockdowns in force across Europe then led to a shortage – practically overnight. Prices recovered within just a few days and in some cases are now much higher than last year.

Why is the market so susceptible to change?

Frederik Jastrembski: Basically speaking, Europe has a surplus of around eight million tonnes of waste paper a year, although Germany’s well-organised paper industry was able to cope with this well. However, much greater volumes of paper began arriving in Germany from other European nations after other countries such as China began accepting less and less waste, including recovered paper. By the beginning of this year, recovered paper was having to be stored in warehouses as paper mills were unable to take any more.

And then everything changed?

Frederik Jastrembski: Yes, the coronavirus measures have dramatically changed the situation. The volumes of paper coming from other countries nosedived almost immediately and then there was a slump in Germany as well. The automobile industry closed down its operations, as did furniture stores and other retailers. Huge volumes of recovered paper that would otherwise be on the market are no longer there. The paper industry soon became worried – and justifiably so – that they would not be able to access the supplies they need to run their mills.

“We are all being forced to rethink the way we live and work and it is our task to make the most of this shift and work more closely with politicians, industrial businesses and consumers.”

Frederik Jastrembski, Managing Director of REMONDIS Trade & Sales

What impact would this have, if that were to happen?

Frederik Jastrembski: If you think about the circular economy, then it’s pretty clear what would happen if paper mills had to shut down. It would not just affect supplies of toilet paper, which is so popular at the moment, but the food industry as well as much of their packaging depends on recovered paper. We would have the food but not the packaging to put it in. The work we do collecting and supplying waste paper is, therefore, also an essential service.

Is the situation on a more solid footing now?

Frederik Jastrembski: Solid is not the right word to use here. There are still too many uncertainties. No one is able to predict how the situation will develop in the future. Fortunately, the volumes of recovered paper from households have remained the same but those from commercial businesses have dropped dramatically. Over the short to medium term, the way and the speed that the coronavirus lockdown measures are lifted will have a major influence on supply and demand. It’s not possible to rule out that the current artificial shortage of recovered paper will suddenly be reversed and that the prices will fall rapidly again. This would mean the business would experience the third dramatic change in prices within a really short period of time.

So what is important for you right now?

Frederik Jastrembski: What everyone probably needs to have at the moment is security. For us that means continuing to be able to secure delivery of the volumes of paper that are still available. Which is why local authorities certainly mustn’t make the rash decision to stop kerbside collections of waste paper in their regions as the City of Würzburg has just done. What’s more, some more information from the central and state governments about the Covid-19 measures would enable us to plan ahead – something that is very important to us. The more we know, the quicker we and the paper industry can react and adapt.

Your first six months as managing director have no doubt been very different to what you had imagined. Despite this, what points are on your medium and long-term to-do list?

Frederik Jastrembski: Basically speaking, what is important is that there is more stability on the market. We must avoid having a situation like we had at the beginning of the year – when the whole logic of the market was turned completely upside down, partly as a result of negative pricing. It is our job to provide the industry with a reliable supply of high quality raw materials. Besides having modern sorting systems, it is also very important that the waste material is separated correctly. Local authorities must take on much more responsibility here and ensure that the right materials are being thrown into the waste paper bins. Even if environmental policies are being pushed into the background at the moment, it is still essential to cut carbon emissions and conserve natural resources. We are all being forced to rethink the way we live and work and it is our task to make the most of this shift and work more closely with politicians, industrial businesses and consumers to find ways to sustainably protect the environment and the economy.

For more quality: what should not be put in the waste paper bin?

    • Soiled paper, e.g. pizza boxes
    • Drinks cartons
    • Disposable tableware, e.g. paper cups
    • Sanitary paper
    • Paper table cloths and serviettes
    • Wax / greaseproof paper, e.g. sandwich paper
    • Wallpaper
    • Till receipts

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