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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.

    Yours

    Thomas Conzendorf

A good solution still a long way off

All hopes were on there being a new recyclables law. These were dashed, however, on 19 July when the Federal Ministry for the Environment once again presented a draft bill for a packaging law. Another draft bill, therefore, following in the footsteps of the seven amendments that had already been made to the Packaging Ordinance since 1990. The recyclables law – which is so urgently needed – will be a long time coming.

Much criticism for the latest amendment

The Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament) will probably be taking a closer look at the latest draft packaging bill at the end of this year or at the beginning of 2017. The bill is already being heavily criticised by a number of groups. For example by the environmental organisations, BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany), DUH (German Environment Aid), NABU (German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) and the umbrella organisation of German environmental NGOs, DNR (German League for Nature, Animal and Environment Protection). 

All the organisations are calling for a recyclables law with ambitious environmental targets rather than yet another amendment to the Packaging Ordinance. They have reminded politicians in no uncertain terms that the objective here is to extend the kerbside collection of recyclables to include waste made of similar materials to sales packaging (i.e. plastic and metal) – something that is in the German government’s coalition agreement and yet is nowhere to be found in the draft packaging bill.

A step backwards rather than forwards

In their joint statement, the environmental organisations conclude: “The result is an unambitious draft bill for a packaging law that will mean a step backwards rather than forwards for environmental protection.” The organisations believe that the packaging law will prevent the recycling bin being introduced across the country. Nothing in the draft bill helps promote an increased collection of recyclables nor does it contain any effective measures to reduce volumes of waste or improve the quality of recycling.

Recyclables law: Bundesrat pushing for a result

The draft bill was drawn up in response to a resolution passed by the Bundesrat (upper house of the German parliament) on 29 January 2016. This resolution instructs the German government to submit a recyclables law to replace the Packaging Ordinance as soon as possible. The key issue behind this demand is to ensure that waste packaging and other types of waste made of the same materials are collected and recycled together in order to increase recycling rates.

The overall objectives of the Bundesrat are to achieve better and more innovative recycling systems, to have a simple collection scheme in place as well as to safeguard municipal interests and private sector competition. To ensure this happens, all local authorities should be responsible for collecting the recyclables whilst the actual task of sorting and recycling the materials should be put out to tender. A further demand submitted by the upper house is for there to be a central body with national powers. The tasks of such a body would then range from registering all businesses responsible for such products, to compiling uniform licensing regulations, all the way through to putting out tenders for sorting and recycling the materials. According to the Bundesrat, such a move to replace the current dual systems could greatly help to reduce red tape and cut the costs incurred by companies.

Still many recyclables hidden away in municipal waste

  • REMONDIS is also doing everything in its power to promote a recyclables law that increases raw material efficiency and the quality of recycling systems. At the end of the day, the aim here is to make the very most of the recyclable materials found in household waste. According to an INFA study, a further 95 kilograms of recyclables could be recovered from household waste per person per year. With this in mind, every possible step should be taken to exploit these volumes to help preserve our planet’s natural resources.

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