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  • Dear Readers!

    If you look back at the editorial in the last issue of REMONDIS AKTUELL, then you’ll find that the comments made there were almost prophetic. Just one of the topics it mentioned was the droughts in 2018, predicting that we could expect much of the same this year. Here we are, just a few months on, and this prediction has come true. Having analysed empirical evidence and ice cores, the overwhelming majority of climatologists agree that these weather conditions have been caused by industrialised humans – and that they can only be put right by humans. The question here, of course, is how. Most people are focusing on cars, energy generated by fossil fuels and, of course, air travel. Everyone is talking about the electrification of vehicles. You just need to consider the physical facts, however, to realise this will not be easy to implement. Germany’s national grid, for example, would be unable to supply the power needed if all vehicle owners tried to recharge their car batteries at the same time. The question must, therefore, be asked whether electromobility is the right solution. The move towards the electrification of vehicles is well underway though, as is the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Scientists, however, are predicting that these measures will not be enough on their own. We have another good idea here and one that is practicable – as can be seen by REMONDIS’ daily work. Namely, making the most of the potential of recycling to curb climate change, preferably on a global scale. If humans were to succeed in systematically recovering raw materials and returning them to production cycles and if they were to stop sending waste to landfill (so methane is not produced there), then this would be the third most effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Germany made this move back in 2005 when it passed the ‘TASi’ [Technical Directive on the Recycling, Treatment and Disposal of Municipal Waste]. It is high time that a European TASi is drawn up or – even better – a global TASi. We are systematically implementing this law at REMONDIS every single day.

    Looking at the international stage, Russia is intensifying its efforts to reduce the amount of waste it takes to landfill by creating a well-functioning circular economy. The Russian government has launched an initiative that has made it obliga- tory for all 80 Russian regions to appoint a general operator to modernise their regional waste management sector and set up more recycling systems. For many years now, REMONDIS has been running just such a system in Saransk, the capital city of the Russian Republic of Mordovia and – according to a 2010 survey – one of the best cities to live in in Russia. The city is, therefore, acting as a role model, showing the direction that the Russian waste management sector could move in in the future.

    A number of our new apprentices joined the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement when they were at school, calling for more to be done to stop climate change. And so it was a logical decision for them to do their apprenticeship at REMONDIS where they can carve out a sustainable career for themselves, “Every Day for Future” so to speak. REMONDIS’ systematic recycling operations ensure waste is transformed into raw materials, energy and heat and play a considerable role in conserving natural resources and tackling climate change. Welcome to the climate professionals.

    Max Köttgen

The black bin is the wrong choice

German law stipulates that all batteries must be handed back when they are empty. The dustbin, however, would appear to be the route most people are choosing for their old lithium batteries. This can cause huge problems for the companies operating recycling and sorting facilities for residual waste and waste packaging. An ever-increasing number of fires are being caused by damaged lithium batteries. If the recycling plants are to be able to operate as they should, then it is vital that householders are made aware of their obligations. A deposit return scheme could be the answer here.

Retailers must take back old batteries free of charge

  • The number of everyday devices that need a battery is growing all the time. In Germany alone, the use of batteries in devices has risen by 22% since 2009. With old batteries – and especially damaged batteries – posing such a high risk, the Battery Ordinance has already set out in black and white that they may not be thrown into the residual waste bin. Retailers are obliged by law to take back old batteries free of charge – the size of the battery is irrelevant.

    The use of batteries in devices has risen by 22% in Germany alone since 2009.

    Very few people, however, would appear to be meeting their obligations here. At present, 46% of old batteries are actually returned – whereby Germany just manages to meet the EU-wide collection rate of 45%. This figure is not good enough, especially looking at the rapid rise in consumption rates. A whole number of batteries are not being recycled. Even more importantly, in this particular case, throwing batteries into the wrong bin puts both humans and the environment at risk. If further sorting plants are forced to stop operating because of fires, there is a real danger that Germany’s recycling sector will suffer a setback that could last for years. If the country no longer has the capacity to sort the volumes of waste generated, then the short-term solution will be to send it to incineration plants or landfills. The former does not have the capacity to handle such volumes, the latter is – quite rightly – forbidden in Germany.

    Major fires are often caused by lithium batteries being thrown into the wrong bin

  • of old batteries are returned

The solution: financial incentive via a deposit return scheme

  • No other collection scheme in Germany has been as successful as the deposit return scheme for PET bottles. The solution to the conundrum of how to keep batteries apart from the other waste streams is really quite obvious. Returning old lithium batteries to dedicated take-back points simultaneously solves both problems: the safety risks and the low recycling rates. Retailers can simply add a deposit to the sales price, which is then reimbursed when the consumer returns the battery. This can be tied in with the Battery Ordinance that already makes it obligatory to charge a deposit of €7.50 on car batteries.

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