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  • Dear Readers!

    If truth be told, we had all been hoping that we would no longer have to talk about Covid by spring 2021. Who would have thought that we would be spending a second Easter and a second Ramadan with no end to the pandemic in sight? The longer this situation continues, the more difficult it is to maintain the public and personal discipline needed to fight the pandemic. People are weary. They are fed up with having to go from one lockdown to the next with there being no real prospects of life returning to normal. And while infection rates continue to rise no matter what restrictions are put in place, the country’s normally reliable federalist system is beginning to reveal some weaknesses. Is it really helpful that the measures taken to tackle this global threat are decided on at federal state level? On the other hand, why should public life grind to a halt in a sparsely populated region with a low two-figure infection rate just because the number of people catching the virus is rising exponentially in an area several hundred kilometres away? There are no simple answers but at least we are fortunate to have almost 27,000 ICU beds here in Germany and are better prepared for the situation than many other countries. However, being forced to focus almost entirely on treating Covid patients, hospitals are finding themselves in a difficult financial position – to say nothing of the huge and constant stress levels that the ICU healthcare professionals are having to cope with. At least the Covid measures have led to a dramatic decline in all other kinds of respiratory illnesses. Fortunately, the strict hygiene measures have meant that we have not had to deal with a flu epidemic this year.

    The world tends to view Germans as being both extremely organised and efficient. Some may be reconsidering their opinion, though, looking at the speed – or lack of speed – vaccinations are being rolled out. Which once again brings us back to the subject of using the private sector to deliver essential services. Here, too, many problems could have been prevented right from the start if politicians had taken up the help offered by the private sector to support the vaccination campaign. It can be assumed that an international online ticket seller, one able to sell millions of tickets for rock festivals or worldwide concert tours within just a few hours, would be able to organise online vaccination appointments faster and more efficiently than the overworked local health authorities with their outdated IT systems – and certainly without their website crashing or without them having to develop new software first. Such offers, however, have been taken up by just a few individual public health offices and then only belatedly.

    Are things running more smoothly in the circular economy? This latest issue of REMONDIS aktuell takes a closer look at the differences between rural districts and cities. It is, above all, the rural district authorities that turn to the private sector for help in providing a number of services – both in the circular economy as well as in the area of water and wastewater management. This approach not only promises to deliver the best services at sensible prices. It also has a major impact on how efficient their sustainability efforts actually are. With local authorities facing both an increased financial burden caused by the pandemic and an urgent need to renovate their infrastructure, it is well worth taking a closer look at the situation. 22% of local councillors believe that their local business tax revenue will be at least 10% lower in 2021 than it was in 2019. The majority of district and town councils, 64% to be precise, are planning to increase their local taxes and/or charges. There is certainly room for them to optimise their business operations in the area of cost-intensive key services, such as waste and water management, by systematically putting these services out to tender, extending their PPP arrangements or founding a new PPP company.

    We hope you enjoy reading this latest issue. Stay safe!

    Yours, Ludger Rethmann

Switchover part of a renewed contract

  • Replacing recycling sacks with recycling bins across a rural district as large as the Mecklenburg Lake District [Mecklenburgische Seenplatte] while still carrying out normal refuse collection operations – this is certainly a considerable logistical challenge. REMONDIS Seenplatte Logistik GmbH has now successfully completed this task. Previously responsible for collecting the recycling sacks in this tourist region north of Berlin, the company was once again awarded a contract for this area for 2021 to 2023 following the latest tender process. This time, their new assignment has involved an additional undertaking: changing the collection system over to recycling bins.

Helping to keep streets tidier

The district authorities are, therefore, promoting the current trend towards recycling bins – a development that is primarily being supported by environmental politicians as they believe this will improve collection rates and, consequently, recycling rates. Recycling bins also help to give streets a more orderly appearance, especially in a unique natural landscape such as the Mecklenburg Lake District. All too often, rural regions see their recycling sacks being blown around by the wind or ripped open by wild animals. With the district generating around 10,500 tonnes of old packaging a year, the whole region – and the many tourists travelling there from across the whole of Germany – will now benefit from having these materials collected in solid bins.

  • of old packaging will be collected every year in a cleaner and more efficient way now that solid bins are being used

A tight schedule

  • The district authorities and their procurement office set the course for this transformation in May 2020 and awarded the contract to REMONDIS at the beginning of September 2020. Which meant there was little time left to supply all the households with the new bins. Most projects like this allow for a 12-month transition period. The Mecklenburgische Seenplatte district authorities, however, wished the handover of the new bins to have been completed within ten weeks.

Three different bin sizes

  • The company’s first task involved working out how many bins would be needed for each building (according to the number of households and residents living in them) and then getting hold of them so that they could be distributed across the region. They also had to decide which size of bin (120, 240 or 1,100 litre bin) should be handed out. REMONDIS used both the large amount of data at its disposal and its extensive experience of such matters to allocate the bins. The amount of residual waste generated by the different households was also factored in to help them decide which size should be distributed. With the time frame being so tight, it was simply not possible to ask each household what kind of bin they would like to have.

“We received a comparatively low number of complaints and requests for a different sized bin – confirmation, I believe, that we took the right approach.”

Florian Roesberg, Managing Director of REMONDIS Seenplatte Logistik GmbH

Having a strong network helps

REMONDIS called on external service providers from its network to support them in this logistical endeavour. The first 70,000 smaller 120 and 240 litre bins were provided by the company Craemer and delivered to the private households within a very short period of time. REMONDIS itself supplied the large wheelie bins required by housing complexes and recycling collection points. It is practically impossible to carry out such a task without there being complaints.

The few that did come in were processed quickly by REMONDIS to ensure both the local residents and the district authorities were pleased with the results. With this work completed by the end of last year according to schedule, old packaging across the district is now being collected every fortnight in recycling bins rather than recycling sacks as planned. Last year, the company needed 19 vehicles and 39 employees to collect this material stream. This has now increased to 24 vehicles and 44 members of staff. Both the district authorities and REMONDIS have high hopes that this move will improve collection rates. Roesberg continued: “Outthrow material is one of our biggest challenges. Any material that doesn’t belong in the bin has to be removed and this is additional work for the downstream sorting and recycling plants. In this age of increasing environmental awareness, we are all being called on to take a closer look at and take greater responsibility for our own actions.”

A few facts & figures

With the Mecklenburg Lake District covering almost 5,500 square metres, the district authorities are responsible for the largest administrative district by surface area in Germany. A popular tourist destination, this region is home to 250,000+ inhabitants, the majority of whom live in and around the towns of Neubrandenburg, Neustrelitz, Demmin and Waren. With a population density of below 50 inhabitants per square metre, the district is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Germany.

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