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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

Levels of reliability put to the test

REMONDIS UK’s construction waste sorting plant in Birtley has only been up and running for just over twelve months and has already shown that it is extremely reliable. In these times of social distancing, increasing volumes of waste and extreme levels of uncertainty, it has been playing a key role in the recycling firm’s operations.

Automation plays an important role

  • “Thanks to this plant, we’ve been able to continue to deliver our high quality services throughout the lockdown,” explained the company’s managing director, Steve Patterson. The highly automated sorting systems and the plant’s robust design have been key here. It hasn’t been a problem for the staff to maintain the minimum distance from each other either as very few of the sorting stages actually need to be performed manually. “Over 95% of the volumes handled at the plant can be separated according to type and the amount of residual materials has fallen by more than ten percent. What’s more, both the volumes of waste treated and the importance of the plant have grown since the pandemic began,” Steve Patterson continued. The sorting technologies used at the facility include mechanical screening, magnet separators and density separators as well as near-infrared sorting technology to ensure quality of the output.

    • A modern building with modern technology: REMONDIS’ sorting plant in Newcastle, UK

  • “Over 95% of the volumes handled at the plant can be separated according to type and the amount of residual materials has fallen by more than ten percent. What’s more, both the volumes of waste treated and the importance of the plant have grown since the pandemic began.”

    Steve Patterson, Managing Director REMONDIS UK Birtley

Safe collection & recycling structures reduce health risks

And, in times such as these, it is not just this plant in the British town of Birtley that has been demonstrating the essential role the circular economy and recycling industry play. Waste management companies must be in a position to collect and recycle materials at all times – and preferably all fractions. This is also important to prevent the spread of disease. Just like energy providers, health workers, national and local government employees and transport workers, waste management providers have also been given ‘key worker’ status. Besides delivering essential services, the recycling industry, of course, also plays a significant role in helping to curb climate change and protect the environment.

BDE: COVID-19 economic stimulus package incomplete – too many missed opportunities

This summer, Peter Kurth, former and current president of the BDE [Federal Association of the German Waste Management Industry], criticised the COVID-19 economic stimulus package put together by the coalition in Berlin, declaring it to be an “incomplete programme”. He believes improvements need to be made, especially in the area of resource efficiency. “The package that the politicians have come up with is primarily a package of missed opportunities,” Peter Kurth commented in Berlin.

According to the Association, the package focuses on the wrong priorities. “The stimulus package – which involves an unprecedented amount of money – concentrates far too much on spending money and not enough on making Germany’s economy greener. People looking for some clear signals here will be disappointed. Resource efficiency, the circular economy, recycling – not once are these referred to and at no stage has their potential been understood and consequently encouraged,” the president of the BDE continued. 
The Association is, however, pleased to see that the idea of introducing minimum levels of demand has finally been mentioned. Unfortunately, though, this will only be reviewed as a potential solution and will be restricted to steel and as a part of the hydrogen strategy. This is, Kurth said, far too little. What’s more, the Association is also calling for politicians to be more audacious and cut red tape: “The reason why many public investment projects failed to get off the ground in the past was not because there was a lack of funds but because the process – i.e. planning, approval, legal proceedings – was much too long. Cutting red tape in the area of planning law has, unfortunately, been deferred to EU level leaving everything up in the air. As in the past, private sector investments remain at the planning stage, often for decades, and face framework conditions that are far too uncertain. Having said that, though, it is not simply a matter of investing money but also of how.”

To make green procurement and the related procurement processes meaningful, the Association believes that it is essential that a recycling label be developed quickly. The costs involved here would be around 300 million euros. “Some people might call this package a powerful package but they are certainly not referring to its potential to create a modern green economy. Far too many opportunities have been missed here. It would have been good if environmental politicians had also been involved in drawing up the programme. Which is why we – the Association – are now calling for focus to be put on resource efficiency as the programme is gradually implemented,” Peter Kurth concluded.

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