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  • Dear Readers!

    Many people will be looking at their calendar with a feeling of disbelief that this turbulent year is already coming to a close. 2021 has been a year that will remain in our memories for a long time to come. Here in Germany, the devastating floods that hit the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and parts of North Rhine-Westphalia were a strong reminder that we finally have to up our efforts and take some serious steps to curb climate change. And while the people living in the affected regions are still clearing up the rubble – also thanks to the rapid help from the circular economy – and working to rebuild their lives, the world met in Glasgow to argue about whether or not to phase out coal. At the same time, covid came back again with a vengeance this autumn. Hesitant politicians and organisational failure came up against a waning vaccine immunity and vaccine scepticism among a minority of the population, who seem determined to ignore scientific facts. And, this year was an election year – the end of the Chancellor Merkel era – and a perfect storm had been brewing in a political vacuum as the slow-moving coalition talks meant the new Government could not take up the reins. It is high time that the right course is set – in politics, in the economy and in society.

    Faced with such difficult situations, it is then almost a minor miracle that our family business has – together with and thanks to our partners and customers – had an exceptionally good year. Much of this can be put down to the global economy restarting in the spring after the strict covid measures were provisionally lifted. The flipside of unrestrained production activities and a highly charged global trade, though, soon became evident: a general shortage of raw materials. Anyone trying to build a house and get hold of timber or plastic pipes in 2021 certainly know all about this problem. As the year drew to an end, it was even difficult to get hold of recycling sacks because, being in such high demand, there is a shortage of recycled plastic pellets.  

    Which brings us to the subjects that unite the essence of the two previous paragraphs: climate action and resource conservation. The wide range of services that our company delivers plays a major role in helping to solve the problems mentioned above. By recycling materials, producing renewable energy and offering sustainable services, we are easing both problems at the same time. Each tonne of raw material recycled by our company not only conserves virgin resources but also cuts large volumes of carbon emissions. Along the way, we are also gradually switching over to climate-neutral logistics. Inspired, by the way, as well by our sister company Transdev, which already deploys whole fleets of electric buses in many cities around the world – a role model and an incentive for us to do even more.

    And so there is some good news as well at the end of this eventful year – and we would like to thank you all for the great collaboration work that made this possible. May we also take this opportunity to wish you a happy Christmas and all the very best for the coming year.

    Yours

    Ludger Rethmann

A successful PPP: a look back and a look ahead

  • Wirtschaftsbetriebe Oberhausen (WBO) was founded 25 years ago. Right from the start, this firm was set up as a partnership between the city and a private sector partner; today, the city council owns a 51% share in the business and REMONDIS a 49% share. In an interview, WBO managing directors Karsten Woidtke and Andreas Kußel discuss why this public private partnership has been such a success and look ahead at its future prospects.

REMONDIS AKTUELL: It was quite a sensation 25 years ago for private sector and public sector partners to own a firm together – especially in the Ruhr region. How would you sum the business up?

  • Kußel: From a business point of view, a real success: the company has been permanently in the black since 1999. We moved all our operations to a single site back in 2001 to prevent things having to be done twice. We have access to the whole of REMONDIS’ network when it comes to processing the collected materials – from recycling, to incineration, all the way through to the safe treatment of hazardous waste. This ensures that we can run a stable and cost-effective business. And, of course, we benefit from REMONDIS’ purchasing power as a major buyer when we need to procure new equipment such as vehicles and machinery.

    Woidtke: The transfer of know-how is certainly another of the partnership’s strengths. We can take a look at the processes and services being performed by our sister companies in the REMONDIS network and benefit from their experiences. This has enabled us to offer new services over the last two decades, such as the gradual introduction of separate collection schemes for recyclables. Equally, these companies have benefited from WBO’s experiences as well.

    Still a really good team after 25 years: five WBO dustmen who make sure that Oberhausen remains clean and tidy every single day

REMONDIS AKTUELL: So this transfer of know-how is not a one-off event but an ongoing process?

Woidtke: Sure. Just think of the ever-growing demands on businesses to grow sustainability and strengthen the circular economy. The waste management sector is a very important player here. We need to keep on learning and it’s simply not possible for us to test everything ourselves.

REMONDIS AKTUELL: And what do the WBO employees think of this collaboration?

Kußel: We often get positive feedback from our staff. They benefit, for example, from the extensive range of further training and qualification courses and from the opportunities they have to talk to and exchange know-how with REMONDIS’ experts. This helps us to be an even more attractive employer. We’ve been offering secure jobs for many years now and have only just recently increased the size of our workforce.

REMONDIS AKTUELL: What challenges will WBO have to face in the future?

  • Woidtke: As far as our customers are concerned – i.e. the residents of Oberhausen – this will mean continuing to ensure that fees remain stable, that the city remains clean and that we further grow our efforts to protect natural resources and be even more sustainable.

    Kußel: And for the company, there’s the whole question of digitisation, which is leading to many changes at WBO as well. And, of course, our task will be to continue to deliver an economically viable performance and to make sure it remains this way – despite having to face new challenges. This is something that we’ve always managed to do.

    • WBO’s two managing directors: Karsten Woidtke, responsible for the operational side of the business, and Andreas Kußel, who is in charge of WBO’s commercial activities (from left to right)

WBO is responsible for waste management, city cleaning tasks and the town’s drainage systems as well as for sewer and road building projects. Around 410 employees deliver these services to the approx. 210,000 people living in Oberhausen, a city situated in the west of Germany’s Ruhr region. In 2020, the company collected 88,000 tonnes of household waste and 23,000 tonnes of recyclables. WBO is in charge of almost 590 kilometres of roads and 570 kilometres of sewer pipes. The company currently offers 24 apprenticeship jobs and takes on around 90% of their apprentices at the end of their course.

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