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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 highly unusual situation in Ilbesheim

    • Listed timber-framed buildings, well-known winegrowers and picturesque vineyards: Ilbesheim, a winemaking village in the Landau-Land district with 1,200 inhabitants, is a haven of tranquillity. At least, it normally is. Places like Ilbesheim, however, can also suddenly find themselves facing exceptional circumstances that demand a rapid response, the highest of safety standards and even an evacuation.

    The way it began was quite unspectacular. A former vineyard in the centre of the village was sold and the new owner wanted to tidy the place up. He discovered a 20l metal drum in one of the sheds that did not look right. Not only was it rusty but also – and more worryingly – the drum had leaked some of its contents, a yellow powder, and had a warning label that was still legible. The new owner reported this to the police, who involved the fire brigade, the public order office and the district’s hazardous materials team.

As explosive as TNT

  • It became clear in no time at all that the situation needed to be handled very carefully. The decades-old drum contained a pesticide that has been banned in Germany since 1960 and is not only toxic but also highly explosive when it crystallises. In the state it was in, the drum had an estimated explosive force of around 10 kilograms of TNT. Enough to cause major damage – even to solid steel structures – within a radius of 100 metres.

    Which meant the village’s tranquillity was disturbed for a while. The drum had to be made safe as quickly and as securely as possible – and this had to be done by specialists. A call was put through to BUCHEN UmweltService who set everything that had to be done in motion. BUCHEN’s experts first had to plan the work meticulously. Taking all the potential risks and specific circumstances into account, they drew up a concept to remove and dispose of the drum. At the centre of their plan: an alkaline solution and a special epoxy resin that did not generate heat. At the same time, BUCHEN applied for all necessary permits, transported the equipment they needed to the vineyard and prepared the space to meet the requirements for performing work in a contaminated area.

    • An extensive range of safety equipment, including a 4-chamber, double-door system, had to be installed so the toxic drum could be removed

Salvage work in slow motion

They were ready to move in and remove the drum in July. First, 225 Ilbesheim residents had to leave their homes. The control centre was then set up and 80 specialist rescue operatives brought in to lend a hand if needed.

Supported by their team leader, two BUCHEN employees entered the shed to make the drum safe – experienced, safety-conscious operatives, who carry out such tasks as part of their everyday job. Wearing respiratory protective equipment and hazmat suits, they set up a sprinkler system and sprayed the drum with the lye, which immediately halted the risk of explosion. Calmly and with a level head, the well-practised team covered the whole of the rusty drum in a protective film to prevent it falling apart. As if in slow motion, the drum was then lifted up with a hoist and very carefully placed in a 120l salvage drum. The staff then filled this salvage drum with binding agents before pouring the epoxy resin into it, a step that had been approved by the Ministry of the Environment in Mainz.

The setting resin firmly joined the two drums together so that it was impossible for the toxic pesticide to escape. The job was successfully completed within around four hours. And the Ilbesheim residents could breathe easy again. The people who had been evacuated were able to return to their houses earlier than expected. The village was safe once again.

Staying safe in critical environments

Jobs such as the one in Ilbesheim really underline the strength of BUCHEN’s ‘safety first’ prerequisite. All areas of the Group are certified in accordance with exacting quality, safety and environmental standards. The employees also benefit from the advantages created by this system. Besides taking part in training courses and performing such tasks regularly, BUCHEN’s operatives can rest assured that all individual steps of a project have been carefully thought through and all safety aspects taken into account. Additional protection is provided by detailed risk assessments, project-related safety instructions and, last but by no means least, the company’s own workshops that ensure that all equipment and protective gear are always kept in an excellent condition.

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