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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

Soil is full of potential

  • Removing CO2 from the atmosphere and naturally trapping this greenhouse gas in the soil – this sounds too good to be true. And yet it really is possible. By its very nature, soil is one of the planet’s carbon stores that can be influenced the most. A quality that makes it particularly good for the climate and one that can be put to good use. Working with the Fraunhofer Institute, REMONDIS has developed a system to optimise the way soil stores carbon. Central to this development are a digital tool and the quality-assured composts produced by RETERRA.

Carbon broken down by microorganisms

Every single contribution helps when it comes to tackling the global challenges caused by climate change. Introducing bans and making sacrifices are, however, not always the best way to move forward. Nature has created a perfect soil carbon capture system: CO2 is drawn from the air by plants as they grow and is released into the soil as carbon via plant roots or decomposing plant parts. The carbon in the soil is then broken down by microorganisms. Some of this is released back into the atmosphere as CO2. The majority of it, however, remains in the soil creating humus, the organic component of soil.

Humus content – a decisive factor

Soil not only acts as a carbon store in places untouched by human activity like moors and uncultivated land but also in intensively cultivated places such as farming and forestry land. A whole range of factors determine just how much carbon collects in the soil and how long it remains there. The impact of humans – whether it involves fertiliser, tillage or choice of plant – plays just as big a role here as the natural properties of the soil.

In average conditions, one tonne of RAL-certified (fresh matter) compost enables ca. 260 kilogrammes of CO2 to be stored.

One particularly important factor, though, is the humus content of the soil as the greater the amount of humus, the more carbon can be stored. Spreading compost is an ideal way to increase the humus content of agricultural land. Up to now, however, composts have primarily been seen as being a useful method of adding nutrients to farm land. However, with the impact of climate change becoming ever greater, the other advantages of compost are now coming to the fore – thanks to the link between humus content and carbon storage.

Storage potential put in concrete figures

    • Thanks to the digital tool developed by the Fraunhofer Institute and REMONDIS, it is now possible to calculate the positive impact that spreading compost has on soil carbon capture and to express this in concrete figures. What’s more, it also gives some pointers about how this positive impact could be further increased. These calculations are based on RETERRA’s RAL-certified composts.

    Just using the volumes of compost produced by RETERRA each year, an ideal combination of compost, soil and land use could store around 83,000 tonnes of carbon.

    These high quality compost products are popular among farmers as they are a highly effective way of increasing a soil’s humus and nutrient content – guaranteeing, therefore, an improvement in soil fertility. Using its digital tool, RETERRA can now also show each farmer how crop rotation, land management and type of compost or organic fertiliser can promote soil carbon storage in their fields. Having been adjusted to a particular parcel of land, the tool displays the amount of stored carbon for the period of a crop rotation and as an average mean value.

     

Some impressive numbers

The projections made by the Fraunhofer Institute make it very clear that it is well worth using agricultural land as a highly effective carbon store alongside its other primary uses: just using the volumes of compost produced by RETERRA each year, an ideal combination of compost, soil and land use could store around 83,000 tonnes of carbon.

RETERRA has been supporting farmers for over 30 years, supplying them with climate-friendly organic fertilisers.

Around 500,000 tonnes of the RAL-certified composts produced by the REMONDIS Group are currently used in agriculture. This figure may increase as a result of the incentives created by carbon trading. What’s more, during the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, the German government signed the ‘4 per 1000 Initiative’, which states that a growth rate of 0.4% in the soil carbon stocks in humus around the world would significantly reduce the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere related to human activities.

It is one of REMONDIS’ goals to work closely with local authorities to reduce the volumes of organic waste being sent for incineration so that these materials can be used to make compost and – consequently – further promote soil carbon capture.

 

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