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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.
“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
Steve Patterson, Managing Director REMONDIS UK Birtley
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.
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.