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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

The safety expert for a group of e-scooter rental firms

  • At the beginning of September, the “Shared Mobility” platform – which unites the seven firms renting out e-scooters in Cologne – asked companies to join them in recovering e-scooters from Rheinau Harbour in Cologne. REMONDIS’ division RETRON were immediately on board – or rather in this case on the riverbank – to help out. Specialising in the safe handling and transport of lithium-ion batteries, this division was there as a safety expert to support the mobility providers’ project.

  • What many people are unaware of: devices containing Li-ion batteries are highly dangerous and must be handled and transported with the utmost of care – to protect both people and the environment.

Dubious likes for irresponsible behaviour

People filming themselves throwing rented e-scooters into rivers and lakes would appear to be one of the latest trends on social media. The young people uploading these films onto TikTok are obviously getting a lot of likes. This thoughtless and irresponsible behaviour is causing a number of issues for those not caught up in the trend. The companies renting out the e-scooters are particularly impacted by this latest craze and have to solve the problem of how to get these scooters out of the water as quickly as possible and in one piece. An event recently organised by the companies to recover their e-scooters took place with much media hype and involved an impressive mobile crane being set up in front of the well-known chocolate museum. But that’s not all. It was also very important for the Shared Mobility organisers to have the e-scooters transported safely and recycled once they had been recovered. Which was why they had REMONDIS’ RETRON division at their side to provide them with specialist staff, purpose-built tools and secure storage and transport containers.

Highly dangerous batteries

  • Following the stringent safety measures put in place, two safety specialists were at the harbour bank to take the e-scooters as soon as they were pulled out of the Rhine so that they could dismantle them straight away. One of them was Carsten Koch, a fire protection expert and firefighter from REMONDIS, whose main area of expertise is dealing with fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. “We separate the base or the deck – where the lithium-ion batteries are found in most e-scooters – from the handlebars,” he said explaining the procedure. While the handlebars containing harmless electronic and metal components were placed in a normal e-waste box, the decks with their Li-ion batteries were carefully stored in the special RETRON containers – before being sent on for recycling.

    • The decks with their Li-ion batteries were stored in special RETRON containers

The dangerous nature of lithium

  • The RETRON containers were specifically developed as a safe system to transport potentially damaged lithium-ion batteries. “Every electronic device that contains a lithium-ion battery brings with it a high risk of self-combustion. Especially here where we can assume that the batteries have been damaged either from smashing against the bottom of the harbour basin or some other reason,” explained Lukas Wiedenmann, who was on site at the event on behalf of RETRON. Batteries that are damaged or still partially charged can also catch fire here on land and, in the worst case scenario, explode. “It would be completely irresponsible to store and transport the e-scooters in open containers with no further safety measures in place, as they pose a risk to both humans and the environment,” Wiedenmann continued.

    To date, a total of 61 e-scooters have been recovered. “Shared Mobility” does not intend to give up its battle against this latest indescribable TikTok trend

  • No one is quite sure what damage the e-scooters might cause under water. Li-ion batteries contain substances that are harmful to people’s health and to the environment – and these should never be allowed to escape either on land or in the water.

Locking away the risks

    • Companies operating in the circular economy often find themselves having to deal with explosions and fires caused by damaged Li-ion batteries. These put their staff at risk and destroy their vehicles and facilities. In many cases, the fires are almost impossible to keep under control as there are not enough extinguishing agents on hand. Which is why RETRON developed a UN-certified, high-temperature-resistant container for storing and transporting damaged and faulty Li-ion batteries that provides ideal protection in the case of an explosion or fire. Thanks to the special insulation material, the temperature of the container’s outer walls remains below 100°C even when the temperature inside reaches 1,000°C – and this for over a period of three days.

    No matter, therefore, whether it involves an e-scooter recovered from the Rhine, an e-bike or an electric drill from a DIY store – many individuals, commercial traders and industrial businesses are often unaware of the danger posed by Li-ion batteries. Just like the large e-scooter batteries, small empty household batteries must also be transported to recycling plants safely when they reach the end of their useful life. One thing is true for all these batteries: they should never be carelessly thrown into the residual waste bin; on the contrary, they should always be handled, transported and processed with the greatest of care.

Every scooter counts – for the environment

To date, a total of 61 e-scooters have been recovered. The work performed by the two divers was not easy as they had to stand in mud up to their knees and use only their feet to search for the scooters. Even though it was difficult going, they are determined to continue doing this work in other German cities as well. It is just too uncertain what damage the e-scooters’ batteries may cause under the water, they said.

Were you not aware of the danger posed by Li-ion batteries? Are you interested in finding out more about the RETRON system? Then simply go to retron.world

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