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  • Dear Readers!

    There is good cause for celebration! 30 years of a unified Germany. Or perhaps we should say: ‘30 years of working on a unified Germany’? Seen from a historical perspective, it is certainly true to say that the reunification process has not yet been completed. In fact, looking at Germany’s history, you might well be excused for thinking that this process will never be completed. Each individual region has its own cultural peculiarities, its own dialect, its own sensibilities, its own breed of people. And, of course, their traditional dishes are worlds apart from each other. But that’s the way it should be as it is the differences that create a strong dynamic for change and enrich our culture and economy. Having said all that, we are still quite a young nation. Germany really hasn’t been around that long. Our country – as a federation of states – did not come into being until almost 100 years after the United States of America was founded. And we are all well aware that they are still working hard on unifying their nation.

    We are very grateful that our family-run business has been able to play a constructive role in shaping the reunification process from the start. While criticism continues to be directed towards the Treuhand (the agency responsible for privatising the former East German enterprises) for the way it acted – its focus was often on processing rather than developing – our aim has always been on finding robust, future-oriented solutions by working closely on the ground with the different city and regional authorities. The results speak for themselves – whether it be in the Lausitz region where our public private joint venture WAL Betrieb provides water management services and has kept fees and charges stable and jobs secure for decades now despite the region’s declining population; or in Schwerin, where the public private partnership between the city and REMONDIS has been hugely successful at delivering key services cost effectively. And these are just two examples of many. It was – and continues to be – the amazing personal dedication of the company’s employees in the regions that made it possible for REMONDIS to become a local east German family-run business in these new areas after the wall fell. What’s more, some of the family moved from the Westphalian town of Selm to make their home in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – but this just as a side note. Unity requires active commitment, as does sustainable development. REMONDIS is dedicated to both, always working with the future in mind.

    One thing is certain: there are a lot of things still – or once again – to be done. The recession brought on by Covid-19 is having a dramatic impact on the finances of local authorities. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the cities and districts faced a shortfall of 9.7 billion euros in the first six months of this year. As a comparison: the deficit amounted to just 0.3 billion euros a year ago. The reason for this negative trend was the drastic fall in revenue received by local governments in the second quarter of 2020. The German economy nosedived by 9.7% between April and June – the first time it has ever had to face such a huge drop. Yet another reason then for thinking about how the pressure can be taken off local governments in the future. They don’t have to do everything by themselves – the private sector is happy to help. Public private partnerships are a robust solution for delivering cost-intensive essential services, such as waste management and water management tasks. I and Professor Michael Schäfer, retired professor of public sector economics at the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, illustrate this very clearly with the help of many examples in one of the books we co-authored – and we don’t forget to mention the negative examples either. As everyone knows, people learn from their mistakes so they can do a better job in the future. And this is precisely what we are doing together with our friends and partners in the not so new states in the east of Germany, in Europe and across the world.

    We hope you enjoy reading this latest issue. Stay safe!

    Yours

    Ludger Rethmann

An urgent need to raise awareness

  • “Explosion in a child’s bedroom: smartphone battery bursts into flames.” This was a headline in a north German newspaper just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, such headlines can be read all too often. Articles regularly appear containing alarming information about car parks, flats, refuse collection trucks, bins and even sorting plants that have gone up in flames. The reason: carelessly discarded batteries. The damage caused by these fires is immense.

The goal: to reach consumers

  • Images – some of them disturbing – have now been published to make people aware of this huge problem: members of the BDE [Federal Association of the German Waste Management Industry] have launched an awareness campaign called “Brennpunkt: Batterie” [Hotspot: battery]. It is targeted at consumers as it is obvious that many end users are still completely unaware that these batteries are a major fire hazard. The images used for the campaign, therefore, focus on the people who are most at risk from carelessly discarded batteries: namely, the people working at sorting plants and on the refuse collection trucks.

Raising awareness with stickers & videos

  • To reach as many people as possible, the campaign has made a short film highlighting this problem, created a dedicated website containing useful information about how to ensure batteries are disposed of and recycled properly and set up its own social media presence. What’s more, warning stickers should be placed on as many bins as possible across the whole of Germany. At the moment, many of these batteries are not being taken to the battery collection points at retailers or household waste recycling centres but are being thrown into residual waste, paper or recycling bins – either due to a lack of knowledge or simply due to carelessness.

    Find out more about the campaign at brennpunkt-batterie.de

    The legislation is, in fact, very clear: consumers must hand in their old batteries and electrical appliances to either a household waste recycling centre or a retailer. Despite this being set out in law, the majority of these batteries are still ending up in residual waste bins. This not only poses a fire hazard: the metal contained in the batteries cannot be recovered and reused either as household waste is sent to incineration plants. With natural resources becoming ever scarcer, this is bad for the environment and bad for the economy.

    The campaign, which is targeted at consumers, was launched by BDE President Peter Kurth (right), Holger Kuhlmann (left), Managing Director REDUX Recycling GmbH, and Michael Thews, German MP and spokesman for the circular economy in the SPD parliamentary group

The solution: a deposit return scheme for batteries

Clearer instructions are needed: the current regulations are obviously not enough to change the way consumers discard their high-risk batteries. The waste management industry is, therefore, calling for a deposit return scheme to be introduced: consumers should pay a deposit of 50 euros when they buy an appliance that contains a battery with a voltage of nine volts or more. This does not include mobile phone batteries but it should be enough to make consumers aware of the issue. It is now up to the legislator: German environmental politicians are currently discussing this idea in the Bundestag.

Safe containers protect human health, the environment and machinery

  • If devices should self-combust, then special containers can reduce heat generation and ensure the gases are released in a controlled manner. As a result, large fires can be prevented and employees better protected. REMONDIS’ RETRON division already offers safe storage and transport solutions. Its special containers, for example, are perfect for storing small devices at household waste recycling centres.

    Find out more at retron.world/en

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