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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

Concern voiced over “unfair competition”

  • The discussion about having a fair tax system for both municipal and private sector recycling businesses continues unabated. The fact that municipal businesses do not have to charge VAT on their services still dismays their private sector competitors. The President of the BDE (Federal Association of the German Waste Management Industry) Peter Kurth wrote an open letter to the Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) in which he criticised this system of “unfair competition” between public and private sector recycling companies.

    Peter Kurth, BDE President

Germany one of the very few exceptions

Most people are horrified when they hear that large international corporations have based their head office abroad in order to lower their tax bill. Immediately, discussions start up about unfair competition. This feeling about what is just and unjust is not replicated, however, when it comes to the energy sector or the waste management and recycling industry. BDE President Peter Kurth believes that the fact municipal companies are exempt from charging VAT is just as unfair. This German law applies to all public sector companies (i.e. institutions governed by public law, special purpose associations and owner-operated municipal enterprises) and induces just as strong a feeling of being treated unfairly, in particular among the private sector firms affected by this. Very few countries in the European Union still have such tax laws in place.

Huge advantages for municipal companies

The importance of public sector business activities has undergone a change over the last few years – especially at local authority level. The turnover of municipal companies more than doubled between 2000 and 2011. Lying at 267 billion euros, this makes up almost ten percent of the country’s gross domestic product. When taking part in public tenders, these municipal firms are even able to directly advertise the fact that they have lower costs. Fair competition, Peter Kurth says, cannot tolerate such a legal discrimination of market players. He continued: “Just recently, a case was brought in front of a Bavarian council by a private sector firm to found a special purpose association to take over a waste management contract. Its argument for doing this was that it wouldn’t have to pay VAT. This clearly illustrates the fact that the current situation is unfair.” There is absolutely no difference here to private sector corporations trying to avoid paying taxes.

Growth – The turnover of municipal companies

A close look needs to be taken at the current situation

In his letter, Peter Kurth calls on the Federal Minister of Finance Schäuble to re-examine these tax regulations. Steps should also be taken to see what the consequences would be if such an amendment to the VAT law were to be made. Such an investigation would also send a clear message that the tax authorities were taking the problem of unfair tax systems seriously.

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