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  • Dear Readers!

    The summer break has come to an end and people are gradually returning to work – as are the MPs in Berlin. Once again, environmental politicians are focusing on the subjects of waste management and recycling. The coalition agreement, signed by the Government in 2013, gives great importance to curbing global warming and using our planet’s natural resources efficiently and also expressly states that innovations that protect the environment, prevent climate change and preserve resources are also opportunities for economic growth. Industry specialists are well aware, however, that economic growth and more innovations are only possible if there are clear framework conditions in place that guarantee fair competition, if product responsibility is extended and if recycling targets are raised. The latter, in particular, can only be implemented if the necessary legal framework has been established so that joint kerbside collection schemes for packaging and other recyclables can be set up.

    Unfortunately, the latest draft bill for the new packaging law has failed to deliver what many had been hoping for. What we seem to have here is the eighth amendment to the Packaging Ordinance rather than a genuine recyclables law. Whilst there are a few positive approaches to remedying the current deficiencies, it does not deal with the question of whether waste made of similar materials to packaging should also be collected in recycling bins. The increased recycling targets are well below the volumes that could actually be recovered from household waste. According to the latest studies, an additional 7.8 million tonnes of raw materials could still be collected which in turn would reduce carbon emissions by a further 1.6 million tonnes. Moreover, the need for fair competition and a level playing field between the private and public sector companies has not been tackled in the draft bill either. And there is practically no mention of introducing effective ecodesign guidelines that would force manufacturers to think about how their products could be recycled when actually designing them. We must wait and see whether this draft bill actually becomes law. The private recycling sector believes that a number of improvements need to be made to the bill. Time is running out, however, with the general election coming up next year.

    REMONDIS demonstrates just what can be done with waste and how the very most can be made of these materials to curb climate change and protect the environment – such as at its Lippe Plant in Lünen. The efforts being made by the company here were officially recognised recently when KlimaExpo.NRW (a cross-departmental initiative of the state government of NRW to prevent climate change, conserve resources and achieve sustainable economic growth) added three of the Lippe Plant’s areas of expertise to its list of the twelve best projects in North Rhine-Westphalia. At this site, industrial and household waste is recycled and turned into primary products for industrial businesses, waste and residual materials are transformed into fuels and, last but by no means least, biomass is recycled or used to generate energy. These three areas of expertise alone reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 416,000 tonnes every year – and are, therefore, getting as close as technically possible to achieving fully closed cycles. The Lippe Plant flagship project is becoming ever more effective. It is high time that this model becomes the norm so that future generations also have a planet worth living on.


    Thomas Conzendorf

Urgent action needed

Looking at the rate the world’s population is increasing and at the exponential growth in the consumption of our planet’s natural resources, one might be forgiven for becoming a pessimist. The so-called Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year, was even earlier this year – on 08 August. And the British scientist and author, Stephen Emmott, states in his bestseller ‘Ten Billion’: “We urgently need to do – and I mean actually DO – something radical to avert a global catastrophe.” This is what REMONDIS’ Lippe Plant is all about. Europe’s largest recycling centre is showing the world – a world, where simply rethinking matters isis no longer an option – what and how concrete action can be taken. Much praise and several awards have been given in recognition of the efforts being made there. We spoke to REMONDIS managing directors, Herwart Wilms and Silvio Löderbusch, about why we should be more optimistic.


Mr Wilms, Mr Löderbusch, do you find yourselves worrying about our future when you read the latest reports on climate change or on the rate humans are consuming energy and natural resources?

  • Herwart Wilms: We certainly can’t and indeed shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the global challenges caused by our planet’s ever growing population. It wouldn’t help anyone though to fall into a state of paralysing pessimism. The human race is still able to get a grip on the problems we have been inflicting on our planet. Which is why our work here at REMONDIS is as valuable as it is fulfilling: every single day we focus on finding concrete ways to create a sustainable supply of clean water and raw materials as well as to curb global warming.

    Silvio Löderbusch: The Lippe Plant shows how things could be done better and not just in one but in many different areas. There are even some concrete examples of how our innovative recycling operations have not only helped to prevent an environmental crisis but also to create an environmentally friendly mass-produced item. By producing high quality recycled gypsum, we have turned a substance that used to cause acid rain and put the European forests and their ecosystems at risk into a premium product for the construction industry and medical sector. A sustainable solution to the problem! A sign, too, that we should be optimistic if the problems are tackled correctly.  

    • Silvio Löderbusch, Managing Director at REMONDIS

    • Herwart Wilms, Managing Director at REMONDIS

“Compared to plastic made from crude oil, every tonne of recycled plastic we produce reduces carbon emissions by 1.2 tonnes.” 

Silvio Löderbusch, Managing Director at REMONDIS

Turning a crisis into an opportunity then?

  • Herwart Wilms: Exactly. Our intelligence is our most important resource and we are permanently using our engineering skills and our know-how to develop new processes so that more – or preferably – all waste can be recycled in the future. This really is the only way to combat society’s excessive consumption and the negative impact this is having on the environment. The fact, for example, that three separate areas of expertise at the Lippe Plant have been named official KlimaExpo.NRW projects is surely a sign that this message is gradually getting through to a larger audience. We are certainly proud of this achievement but it is also an incentive to do even more. Closed cycles are essential if progress is to continue to be made in the future.

    The Lippe Plant in Lünen covers a total area of 230 ha. A team of 1,400 people are here every day working for the future

    Could you give an example of this?

    Silvio Löderbusch: To be honest the whole of the Lippe Plant is an example of high quality recycling. If we focus, though, for a moment on one of the world’s most urgent environmental problems – the plastic waste in our oceans – then an essential part of the solution to this problem can be found here in Lünen. Our plastics recycling facility at the Lippe Plant transforms collected plastic waste into new raw material for the plastics industry. None of this plastic, at least 20,000 tonnes a year, ends up in our environment, let alone in our seas. What’s more, if we compare this to plastic made from crude oil, then every tonne of recycled plastic we produce reduces carbon emissions by 1.2 tonnes. If this process were to be used right around the globe and if the public could be taught to separate their waste properly, then humanity could solve several pressing environmental problems in one go.

    A video of the Lippe Plant

  • of plastics are recycled at the Lippe Plant every year

Would it be correct then to say ‘recycling prevents climate change’?

Herwart Wilms: Absolutely. The operations at the Lippe Plant alone reduce carbon emissions by almost half a million tonnes. By the way, one of the classic recycling processes – composting garden waste – plays a major role here. Only we do it on an industrial scale, treating 70,000 tonnes every year.

Silvio Löderbusch: Which means really that what you said before should be expanded. Recycling prevents climate change, conserves natural resources, protects our environment and guarantees the sustainable recovery and supply of raw materials to satisfy society’s ever growing demand for consumer products.

Herwart Wilms: And, on top of all that, recycling creates a huge number of great jobs! Around 32,000 people work at REMONDIS. A quarter of a million people work in the recycling sector in Germany alone. It is, therefore, very important for the economy – creating jobs and boosting exports.

“Recyclers – and consequently the environment – don’t have a chance if they are simply given what the previous owner no longer wants.”

Herwart Wilms, Managing Director at REMONDIS

If you had one free wish as to how the industry should develop in the future, what would it be?

Herwart Wilms: Besides raising public awareness around the world? My wish would most definitely be to have more support from politicians. The current debate and the fact that there isn’t going to be a new recyclables law but rather a new version of the Packaging Ordinance shows that politicians would appear to have not yet recognised the true potential and vital importance of recycling. No matter how hard you look, there aren’t any really ambitious recycling targets. We certainly can’t see any real incentives to avoid waste being generated in the first place nor to increase the use of recycled products. And the urgent need to improve the recyclability of new products by introducing better and obligatory ecodesign guidelines hasn’t been met yet either. There’s still a great deal to be done.

Looking at today’s technology though, is it really possible to do this? In other words: is it really possible to recycle all the different kinds of waste that society produces?

Silvio Löderbusch: Of course, taking today’s modern industrial society and the latest levels of technology into account, there are still some residual substances which cannot be sent for materials recycling. These, however, are currently being used to produce valuable refuse-derived fuels to generate energy and heat. This, in turn, reduces our consumption of primary raw materials and cuts carbon emissions. Everyone’s goal though must be to increase the rates of material recycling as this is the only way to preserve our planet’s raw materials for future generations.

Herwart Wilms: To do this, however, we need the support of both manufacturers and politicians. If a recycling industry is to preserve natural resources and protect the environment, then systems must be in place that enable product life cycles to be fully closed – from the product design, to intelligent collection and sorting systems, all the way through to the recycling activities and manufacturing of new products. Recyclers – and consequently the environment – don’t have a chance if they are simply given what the previous owner no longer wants. The system can only be perfected if the products are designed so that we can recycle them effectively. Which is why, looking ahead, recycling mustn’t begin when someone wants to get rid of a product. Recycling starts at the point a product is designed. Products need to be recycling friendly, i.e. made in line with ecological criteria. If society wishes to survive then people must take this on board, accept it and ensure words are put into action by demanding an appropriate response from politicians. For one thing is certain: if we don’t try and overcome the challenges caused by our dwindling supplies of raw materials, we are putting our own future at risk.

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