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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

New statutory conditions

Amendments made to two ordinances back in 2017 are having a major impact on how municipal sewage sludge is being recycled. These two ordinances are the ‘DüV’ [Fertiliser Ordinance] and the ‘AbfKlärV’ [Federal Sewage Sludge Ordinance]. The new statutory conditions are putting the market under increasing pressure.

Thermal treatment is growing all the time

These amendments are already impacting heavily on the market, primarily due to the increased demand for thermal treatment. This trend has been further bolstered by the marked fall in the volumes of sewage sludge being spread on agricultural land – a repercussion of the amendment to the Fertiliser Ordinance. Socio-political discussions about subjects such as nitrate levels in groundwater and drinking water, traces of pharmaceuticals, multi-resistant pathogens and microplastics are also tipping the balance. Experts are currently looking at how long the market can cope with this disproportionate increase in the volumes of municipal sewage sludge being sent for thermal treatment. They are certain that demand for thermal treatment will exceed the capacities available in Germany in ten years’ time at the latest.

Averting a crisis – keeping an eye on the future

Given the fact that capacities are limited, priority must be given to averting a bottleneck by building further thermal treatment facilities. While a number of new plants are, in fact, being built at the moment, their focus is entirely on thermal treatment and not at all on phosphorus recovery. According to experts, it will be extremely difficult – both from a technological and business point of view – to retrofit these facilities with phosphorus recovery systems. This could prove to be problematic in a few years’ time looking at the amendments that have been made to the laws. As the legislator has made it obligatory for phosphorus to be recovered from 2029 onwards, industry specialists believe there really is no other alternative but to design and build new thermal treatment plants that have a system to recover phosphorus from the incineration ash as an integral part of their concept.

REMONDIS Aqua believes sewage sludge recycling facilities will become an integral part of plant design. This includes the TetraPhos process as a central part of the system.

REMONDIS’ TetraPhos process is acting as a role model when it comes to recovering phosphorus and protecting the environment as it offers a viable and innovative system that already meets the future statutory requirements. The world’s first industrial-scale phosphorus recovery facility is currently being built at Hamburg’s sewage treatment plant and is a collaboration between HamburgWasser and REMONDIS. The project, for which the two partners founded the company Hamburger Phosphorrecyclinggesellschaft mbH, is also acting as a role model for other countries as well. It is due to be commissioned next year.

A detailed look at the changes

DüV amendments affecting sewage sludge

  • Limits have been put on the amount of nutrients that may be spread on farms, which severely restricts sewage sludge being recycled on to land.

AbfKlärV amendments affecting sewage sludge

  • A blanket ban on sewage sludge being spread on land located in zone III water protection areas
  • From 2029-2032: obligation to thermally treat sewage sludge from sewage treatment plants sized to handle wastewater from > 100,000 / 50,000 PE (population equivalent)
  • From 2029: a general obligation to recover phosphorus from sewage sludge Steps will have to be taken to recover the phosphorus from sewage sludge with a phosphorus content of ≥ 20g P / kg dry matter (DM). If the sludge undergoes thermal treatment in a co-incineration facility, then its phosphorus content (before it is recycled) must be reduced to < 20g P / kg DM or at least by 50%. If the phosphorus is to be recovered from the incineration ash following thermal treatment in a mono-incineration system, then the recovery rate must be at least 80%.

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