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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

Germany’s most prestigious environmental award

The highly coveted GreenTec awards – one of the most important environmental awards in Germany – have once again been presented to honour the best green innovations. The 9th awards ceremony was held in Munich on 29 May 2016. This year’s winner of the ‘Recycling & Resources’ category was REMONDIS Aqua’s innovative process: “REMONDIS TetraPhos® – Recovering phosphate from sewage sludge ash”.

Years of experience of recovering phosphorus

Around 2 million tonnes of dewatered sewage sludge are generated in Germany every year which contain approx. 60,000 tonnes of phosphorus. A significant amount, therefore, which could be recovered and recycled – especially as natural reserves around the world are gradually being depleted and the quality of these reserves is deteriorating rapidly. REMONDIS has been looking into this subject for many years now and has developed a number of processes that are creating the groundwork and setting standards for recovering phosphorus. Its intention here is to enable the phosphorus to be used as a fertiliser as well as for it to be supplied to industrial businesses as valuable phosphates.

A patented process with a whole range of advantages

  • The company’s TetraPhos® process demonstrates REMONDIS’ approach to this issue perfectly. Thanks to its patented system, high quality phosphoric acid can be produced from sewage sludge ash. This acid can be used to create phosphate compounds that, in turn, can be used to make fertiliser or animal feed or be sent on to the chemicals and metal industry for manufacturing a whole range of different products. Besides the phosphoric acid, the TetraPhos® system also generates gypsum for the building supplies trade and iron and aluminium salts for treating wastewater. A further advantage: TetraPhos® can be operated on an industrial scale making it particularly cost effective. This year’s GreenTec Award for the ‘Recycling & Resources’ category was presented to REMONDIS during the awards ceremony, which was held in Munich on the eve of the IFAT exhibition. Dr Martin Lebek, CTO, expressed his pleasure at being presented with this award: “Receiving the GreenTec Award for our innovative process for recovering phosphates from sewage sludge clearly shows that REMONDIS and its research and development team are heading in the right direction. TetraPhos® is an important way to bridge the gap between recovering and recycling vital substances and running modern water management systems. It is a great honour to be given this award and it will spur us on to do even more to conserve natural resources in Germany – both in the water and in the recycling sectors.”

Winning the award as a team

Andreas Bankamp, managing director of REMONDIS Aqua, also thanked HamburgWasser for the support it has been giving REMONDIS to help it develop its TetraPhos® process so it can be deployed on an industrial scale – in particular thanks to the long and successful collaboration work between itself and REMONDIS Aqua at Vera Klärschlammverbrennung GmbH: “We would certainly not have been able to win this award like this without this public private partnership. REMONDIS may have been presented with this award this evening but for us this GreenTec Award 2016 is recognition of the efforts made by both HamburgWasser and REMONDIS.”

  • “It is a great honour to be given this award and it will spur us on to do even more to conserve natural resources in Germany – both in the water and in the recycling sectors.”

    Dr Martin Lebek, CTO

The problem with our phosphorus reserves

  • According to the figures published by the BGR (Federal Institute for Natural Resources), supplies of natural phosphorus – a substance vital for plants, animals and humans – will have run out within just a few generations. The problem of availability is further aggravated by the fact that, for the most part, this raw material is found in regions or countries that lack political stability or security. 77% of all phosphorus reserves are in a region in Morocco where militant groups are fighting for independence. China owns the world’s second-­largest reserves (approx. 6%). Faced with this situation, the EU Commission decided to put phosphate rock on its list of 20 critical raw materials two years ago, especially as Europe has to import over 90% of its supplies from overseas.

    A video of REMONDIS’ TetraPhos® system (in German)

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