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  • Dear Readers!

    There have been waste management laws in Germany for over 40 years now. At least once a decade, politicians have made some groundbreaking decisions. The “Deponieverordnung” (Landfill Ordinance), the separate kerbside collection system for waste packaging and the “TaSi”, which bans certain materials being taken to landfill and has been acting as a role model for many countries, are all examples of how they have succeeded in systematically moving the country’s waste management sector away from landfills towards more recycling. These courageous decisions, which more often than not involve large investments, have primarily been implemented by private sector businesses but also by municipal waste management companies. We have reached that crossroads again. Germany has to decide which direction it wishes to move in and just how sustainable it wishes to become. The country’s upper house, the Bundesrat, has instructed the Government to submit a draft bill for a new recyclables law by the end of the year, presenting a unique opportunity for them to catapult German recycling activities into a completely new dimension. It is a well-known fact that waste is a source of raw materials. According to a recent INFA study, a further 95kg of recyclable materials could be collected per person per year. The signals coming from the Ministry of the Environment, however, are not particularly encouraging. Here, they are obviously thinking of limiting this new law to waste packaging and wastes made of similar materials. When recycling bins were first introduced in Germany, they were used exclusively for collecting old sales packaging. The decision to allow them to also be used for waste made of similar materials was made a while ago now and it is estimated that this move would only increase the amount of recyclables collected by an additional 5kg per person per year. At REMONDIS, we believe even this figure to be illusory as our experience from collecting, sorting and recycling the contents of the recycling bins has shown that many people are already throwing wastes made of similar materials to packaging into the bin – an intelligent move even if they are not supposed to do this. If politicians limit the new law to just this area, then it will, for the most part, be completely ineffective. We are, therefore, calling on politicians to act as visionaries and be courageous. Make the most of this unique opportunity and set ambitious collection and recycling rates. This is the only way to ensure Germany has a secure supply of raw materials and that everything possible is done to prevent climate change.

    Developing sustainability in the water and recycling sectors is just beginning in Asia. Materials recycling has been neglected in this region for far too long and has hardly been able to keep up with the exponential growth on the continent. Singapore is now looking to do more in this area. One of the latest projects of the country’s National Environmental Agency (NEA) involves a new facility to process slag from waste incineration plants and recover ferrous and non-ferrous metals at the same time. REMEX is the company responsible for building and operating it. Once again, Singapore is forging ahead and acting as a role model for other densely populated regions in Asia.

    Back in Germany, REMONDIS continues to extend its successful cooperation work with local authorities. The recently founded AWIGO Logistik GmbH is the company’s latest joint venture – a public private partnership between the administrative district of Osnabrück and REMONDIS’ regional company, REMONDIS Nord.

    As always, I hope you enjoy reading about these and the many other topics in this latest issue of REMONDIS aktuell.

    Yours

    Max Köttgen 

An interview with Thomas Breitkopf

An interview with Thomas Breitkopf, Board Member responsible for production activities at REMONDIS SE & Co. KG, on slag processing in Singapore, the challenges brought about by the economic boom in Asia and the responsibility of the international community to protect global supplies of raw materials.

Interview

Mr Breitkopf, looking at REMONDIS’ international activities, I see you also operate in the countries in east Asia. How long has the company been in this region?

  • Thomas Breitkopf: We’ve been operating in east Asia for more than twenty years now. Our very first project in the region was to open a plastics recycling facility in Taiwan. From there, we transferred the concept of a sustainable economy with a strong recycling set-up to China and have been steadily developing our business there since then.

What are the stand-out features of the emerging economies in this region?

  • Thomas Breitkopf: These countries need well-functioning recycling, service and water management systems to cope with the consequences of their rapid economic growth and the ever-growing number of consumer products. Many of the regions, however, do not yet have the necessary know-ledge, technologies or infrastructures to create a healthy balance between their economic boom and the needs of the environment.

    There is also a global component to our activities in Asia: sustainability and environmental protection do not stop at a country’s border. The Earth has only one atmosphere, one common water supply and very limited amounts of natural resources. The challenges created by this can only be tackled if all countries work together.

  • Thomas Breitkopf, REMONDIS Board Member, gives a realistic appraisal of the markets in Asia

REMONDIS is now working together with Singapore’s National Environmental Agency to push forward the processing of slag and the recovery of metals in the country. Can Singapore act as a kind of role model for other regions in Asia?

  • Thomas Breitkopf: Singapore is a city-state with very few natural resources of its own, so it has to keep a very careful eye on recycling and the environment. The country, therefore, perfectly illustrates the conditions linked to increased industrialisation and densely populated areas. It is truly impressive to see how quickly and how efficiently this nation has tackled the challenges.

    Singapore has shown that a lot can be achieved – and not in a seemingly never-ending process but within a relatively short period of time. The slag processing and metal recovery facility, which REMEX has developed on behalf of the Environmental Agency and which should be up and running by the middle of next year, is a further step along this path: global recycling rates can and must be increased. The systematic recovery of materials is the only way to safeguard raw materials over the long term – in Singapore as well as in all other regions of the world.

Many of the countries in Asia are still in the early stage of their industrial development and so can avoid the mistakes made by the “older” industrial nations. Are they making the most of this opportunity?

  • Thomas Breitkopf: It would certainly be ideal if the emerging countries considered environmental aspects in the early stages of their economic development. By doing so, they could prevent environmental damage from actually occurring and ensure their industrial growth is set up on a solid base. However, to achieve this, it is essential to raise public awareness of sustainability. A further precondition is having sufficient funds to be able to finance the creation of effective recycling and efficient waste management systems. 

Are the services offered by REMONDIS in the various countries around the world basically the same?

  • Thomas Breitkopf: Each country has its own special requirements which depend on how advanced its economy is, on the density of its population and on its rural or urban structures. We always, therefore, offer bespoke services. The one common denominator is that REMONDIS always uses its experience gathered from similar projects carried out in different regions. Thus, the new slag processing facility in Singapore will benefit from REMEX’s know-how from operating similar facilities in Europe. The country’s options might even go beyond our western standards, for example using the slag as a substitute building material. Singapore is planning to look at different ways of using processed slag to produce concrete blocks and other concrete products – a process which is still being set up in Germany and one that is already being practised in the Netherlands.

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