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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 

Reducing dependency over the medium term

  • Germany has very few sources of energy of its own and is particularly dependent on Russia for its supply of natural gas. Every year, the country consumes around 900 terawatt hours of natural gas, of which more than 800 terawatt hours need to be imported. Russia supplies just under 39 percent of this gas, namely 315 tera-watt hours. For a while now – and not just since the outbreak of the crisis in the Ukraine – energy experts, politicians and the private sector have been looking at ways to reduce Germany’s dependency on natural gas imports. A recent study carried out by experts working at the Fraunhofer IWES (Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology) has identified a number of ways of doing this, including the use of biomethane as a substitute for natural gas. RETERRA already has such a scheme up and running.

RETERRA opens new anaerobic digestion facility

    In 2007, the Federal Government set a new target for 2030: 108 terawatt hours of energy should be produced by Germany itself from biogas. Whilst the country is still a long way from this goal, experts agree that biogas could at least help compensate for the decline in German natural gas production. In line with this plan, RETERRA, one of the leading companies for processing and recycling organic residual materials in Germany, opened up a new anaerobic digestion facility at its compost plant in Coesfeld on 30 April. 

Increasing commitment to produce energy from biogas

In addition to this, Gesellschaft des Kreises Coesfeld zur Förderung regenerativer Energien mbH (GFC) has built a plant to process the biogas generated. GFC’s plant cleans the biogas by removing any unwanted substances and then concentrates the methane content of the gas from ca. 56% to over 97%. The result is a gas of the same quality as natural gas which can then be fed into the gas network. Both plants use state-of-the-art technology and are making a valuable contribution towards the country’s ‘energy turnaround’ (i.e. to change energy supply from fossils to renewables). Prior to this, organic waste had been processed in a conventional composting facility at the Coesfeld-Hoeven composting plant owned by RETERRA West GmbH & Co. KG. Against the backdrop of the increased demands resulting from the energy turnaround and the need to reduce the country’s dependency on energy imports, the company decided to change the way it processed biomass. As part of this new concept, RETERRA West GmbH & Co. KG has built an additional biogas plant with a throughput capacity of 40,000t which will primarily be used for processing organic waste from organic waste bins.

Compost and biogas – a win-win situation for Coesfeld

The rest of the organic and garden waste will continue to be used, together with the digestate from the biogas plant, to produce compost at the Coesfeld composting plant. This facility has the capacity to handle 68,000t. The plant’s composting facility has also been completely refurbished and adapted to fulfil the latest emission requirements set out in the ‘BImSCHG’ (Federal Emissions Act). All of the biogas produced at the biogas plant is sold to GFC. Plans are for this facility to produce more than 20 million kilowatt hours of gas every year. 

At present, there are very few plants in Europe that are able to produce gas from waste that is of the same quality as natural gas. This might be about to change.

The biogas processing facility, built by GFC at the same time, cleans the biogas and removes CO2, sulphur and water to produce a clean gas mixture of the same quality as natural gas. This gas is then fed into Thyssen Gas’ overhead pipe directly reducing the demand for natural gas and, as a result, the dependency on energy imports and the geopolitical issues connected to this. At present, there are very few plants in Europe that are able to produce gas from waste that is of the same quality as natural gas. Thanks to their investment, RETERRA and GFC are making an important contribution towards producing a climate-friendly supply of energy for the future.

  • “Producing biogas of the same quality as natural gas can help immensely to reduce our dependency on Russia to supply us with energy.“

    Aloys Oechtering, Managing Director of RETERRA

RETERRA: a few facts & figures

  • RETERRA, a fully owned REMONDIS subsidiary, accepts, processes and recycles organic raw materials using them to produce high quality products. Such material includes plant and tree cuttings or compostable household waste, from which quality-assured composts are produced. In addition, RETERRA also accepts organic residual waste, such as food waste, which – depending on its suitability – is used in the biogas plant or to produce animal feed. The company’s portfolio is rounded off with sewage sludge fertiliser for agricultural use and environmentally friendly fuels produced from biomass.

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