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  • Dear Readers!

    “I believe in horses. Automobiles are a passing phenomenon.” These are the words said to have been uttered by the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, at the time when mobility was going through a radical change. No one can say for sure whether he really said this or not but it is a quote that is often used as an example of people badly misjudging the importance of an invention – and not just by futurologists. Today, mobility is once again undergoing a radical change. In some areas of the country, air quality has deteriorated so much that politicians, industrial businesses and consumers are being forced to rethink the way they act, in particular in large cities. The diesel scandal has simply further aggravated the situation. The first councils have begun banning old diesel cars from using the roads where air pollution is highest. At the same time, city planners are focusing almost entirely on creating living space and high quality office buildings. In contrast, tradespeople and commercial businesses, such as recycling firms, are gradually being pushed further and further outside the city. Their work though should continue to be quiet, free of dust and, wherever possible, without CO2 or NOX emissions.

    It’s definitely time to start thinking about possible alternatives. What could be better than using one of the country’s waste streams – i.e. organic waste – as a source of post-fossil fuel and, by doing so, enable waste collections to be carbon-neutral and practically free of fine particulate and NOX emissions? REMONDIS has begun a pilot project near Cologne to do just this and is currently testing six vehicles run on biogas.

    The recycling industry has a new market player: the Schwarz Group (Lidl), which has an annual turnover of EUR 96.7 billion (2017) – bigger than the whole of the German recycling sector put together. Earlier this year, the Schwarz Group’s subsidiary, Green Cycle, purchased Tönsmeier, the fifth-largest recycling company in Germany, acquiring a volume of sales three times bigger than all of the acquisitions made by REMONDIS in 2016 and 2017. Industry experts believe that the Schwarz Group will also enter Germany’s ‘Dual System’ market (kerbside collection of sales packaging) in the not too distant future.

    There is so much happening in the German recycling market at the moment – a market which, according to the “Status Report on the German Circular Economy”, has around 10,800 companies competing against each other. While none of the private sector firms has a monopoly in any area of the waste management and recycling industry, the trend towards councils renationalising waste services continues unabated leading to the creation of regional monopolies. As a result, the private sector’s share of the market is also slowly decreasing. At present, for example, its share of conventional waste collection services lies at around 50% of the overall market. As always, we hope you enjoy reading this latest issue of REMONDIS AKTUELL.


    Thomas Conzendorf

The goal: to reduce nitrate

  • The amended ‘DüMV’ [Fertiliser Ordinance], which came into force in 2017, had a worthy goal. Its aim was to reduce the amount of nitrate in the groundwater. For many years now, the groundwater in some regions has been polluted with this harmful nitrogen compound which can be put down to the excessive use of animal-based fertiliser, primarily liquid manure. The problem: the legislator has not only regulated the use of liquid manure but put all organic fertilisers into one basket so to speak. This generalisation has led to compost users having to cope with a whole load of red tape. And all this even though natural compost not only protects the groundwater and improves the quality of the soil but also helps to store water in the ground. An important factor looking at the lack of rain we have had over the last few months.

Compost has a whole host of advantages

People have been using compost to improve the quality of their soils for centuries. This natural product increases humus levels in the soil and, by doing so, helps prevent climate change. Compost conserves supplies of nutrients and promotes biodiversity. And it has another key property – something that is becoming increasingly important looking at this summer’s drought. Compost can retain around five times its own weight in water which can then be passed on to the plants. The amount of water able to be stored by mineral fertiliser is much lower and liquid manure, of course, even lower still.

The ability of compost/humus to retain water

  • Source: VHE (soil association), vhe.de

The new law is heading in the wrong direction

  • What’s more, natural compost does not contaminate the groundwater because the nutrients are released slowly into the soil. Which is why it is all the more difficult to understand why the use of compost is effectively being questioned by law as a result of the ordinances drawn up by the individual German states regarding nitrogen levels in compost – something that really has more to do with liquid manure and mineral fertilisers. More and more environmentally aware farmers are fertilising their fields with natural compost to make the most of these advantages. In an interview with REMONDIS AKTUELL, Peter Zillikens, a farmer from Bornheim, explains why he prefers to use compost made from recycled organic waste.

    • Farmer Peter Zillikens uses RETERRA compost to fertilise his fields


REMONDIS AKTUELL: Mr Zillikens, the practice of using liquid manure as a fertiliser is being heavily criticised at the moment because of it contaminating the groundwater with nitrate. Why do you believe that using compost instead is a good way to improve soils and protect the groundwater?

Peter Zillikens:
The actual fertiliser is bound to the solid matter in the compost. This means that it can’t be washed out and is effectively released into the soil in portions. Besides this, the humus content has a positive impact on the soil.

REMONDIS AKTUELL: It’s possible to see exactly which areas have been fertilised with compost over a long period and which haven’t – especially in extreme weather conditions like the current heatwave. Is the fact that compost is able to retain water an argument for using it as a fertiliser?

Peter Zillikens: What’s clear is that everything possible has to be done to counter such extreme weather conditions. Using organic compost as a fertiliser is certainly an important tool here.

REMONDIS AKTUELL: It’s far more work for you to use compost than simply buying mineral fertiliser and quickly spreading it over your fields as and when it’s needed. Why are you prepared to take on this extra work?

Peter Zillikens: There are three good reasons. Firstly, compost is good value for money. Secondly, it’s not normally a problem to spread it on the fields as there are some highly efficient contractors happy to help out here and, thirdly, public opinion plays a very important role. Using natural compost rather than artificial fertiliser increases the value of our products in every possible way.

REMONDIS AKTUELL: The Fertiliser Ordinance primarily regulates compost according to its nitrogen and phosphorus content. Other components are far more important as far as fertilising soils are concerned, such as the humus, lime content, micronutrients and the improved soil biology. What factors are most important for you here?

Peter Zillikens:
The main reason is that compost allows me to control the way vital nutrients are spread over my fields. At the same time, it feeds the creatures in the soil enabling them to reproduce – something that is also really important for improving soil quality. Soil tilth, i.e. the overall quality of the tilled soil, noticeably improves, not least because compost also has a positive impact on crumb structure. And it also minimises the risk of soil capping.

REMONDIS AKTUELL: What expectations do you have of your suppliers?

Peter Zillikens: Being a farmer, the quality of the product is really important as are punctual deliveries, of course.

REMONDIS AKTUELL: What expectations do you have regarding the quality of the compost?

Peter Zillikens:
The compost must be of a good quality. What’s more, it’s really important that it doesn’t contain any contaminants. It should have a uniform amount of dry content as the soil shouldn’t become too dry after the compost has been spread to keep dust levels to a minimum.

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