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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

An ever growing volume of cardboard

“Old paper is getting browner and browner” – what may sound like a riddle is in fact a description of a significant trend currently being experienced by those collecting old paper and cardboard. While glossy catalogues – such as the OTTO and the IKEA catalogues – are increasingly falling victim to digitisation, the boom in online sales is causing the volumes of old cardboard to rocket. As a result, businesses recycling old paper are facing a new challenge: this increased share of mixed packaging is changing the composition of the secondary raw materials. REMONDIS Trade and Sales GmbH, the Group’s specialist for old paper, believes that quality management is the solution to this problem and, as the first link in the supply chain, has set up its own quality team. The paper industry, which purchases the recycled raw materials, has welcomed this move. The result: the company’s role is changing from simply being a supplier to being a future-oriented partner for the industry.

Securing consistent quality levels

  • For the last two years, a newly set-up REMONDIS Trade and Sales unit has been taking a closer look at the paper being discarded in paper bins so that the company can provide its customers in the paper industry with a supply of secondary raw materials that are always of the same high quality. The team has, therefore, been systematically checking the composition of the paper collected from both households and key customers as well as the amount of outthrow, i.e. materials that do not belong in the bin. At the same time, plant operators and truck drivers are being given the training they need so that it is easier for them to identify and remove outthrow.

    • Current developments in both online retailing and the packaging industry are impacting on paper recycling businesses. Their response: to invest in even better quality management systems

“We ourselves can influence the quality of the collected materials. Each member of staff who is aware of this issue is an added bonus.”

Jannis Lammerskitten, a member of REMONDIS Trade and Sales’ quality assurance team

Deployment of measuring devices

  • The team, however, does not have to take the compacted bales of mixed materials apart to check the quality. A measuring device – the paper bale sensor – is able to do this work for them. Other methods are used to determine quality levels as well. Gravimetric measurements, for example, are taken to examine category 1.11 newsprint, as the recycled material delivered for this type of paper normally arrives as a bulk material.

    If the findings of these measurements reveal that the amount of outthrow in the paper and cardboard is too high in a certain region, then the team contacts the local REMONDIS branch there to look for ways to collaborate with the respective local authorities to improve the quality of their paper collections. The most important factor here, however, is training REMONDIS’ own employees. Which is why Jannis Lammerskitten from REMONDIS Trade and Sales’ quality assurance team has been promoting their courses: “We ourselves can influence the quality of the collected materials. Each member of staff who is aware of this issue is an added bonus.”

    Jannis Lammerskitten and Michael Cox both work in quality assurance at REMONDIS Trade and Sales GmbH. They keep a trained eye on events to ensure old paper can be transformed into a high quality recycled raw material

Best Practice

There is, however, potential to improve quality at the other end of the recycling chain as well. The customers from the paper industry have different requirements regarding the purity levels of the secondary raw materials. The quality management team is, therefore, collaborating with them to come up with a mutual solution regarding outthrow materials as well as to make the process more transparent. The team sees itself as being a facilitator of best practice solutions based on their wealth of industry experience.

This also applies to the new, innovative types of packaging such as functional barrier paper, water-resistant paper and thermopaper. Recyclers must first work out whether these materials can actually be recycled. At the end of the day, looking at the technical feasibility of recycling these types of paper, the question is: is this old paper or residual waste?

Successful recycling is being put at risk

If the changing composition of old paper becomes a permanent issue, then this development will not only create a challenge for the companies involved. It will also put the whole successful recycling process at risk. As the volumes of high quality paper collected decrease so, too, do the number of recycling options available to the companies. Michael Cox from REMONDIS Trade and Sales’ quality assurance team stressed: “Thanks to our in-depth know-how that we have gathered over the years, the paper industry sees us as being an equal partner – a partner, who can help them find suitable solutions. This means we can push forward ideas that will help ensure paper can continue to be effectively recycled.”

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