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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.