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  • Dear Readers!

    At the beginning of December, delegates from 195 UN member states and the EU travelled to Paris to try and find a compromise to curb global warming – a compromise which all countries should then honour. Their primary goal has been to find a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol which ends in 2020. They had not reached the end of their deliberations when this magazine went to print but one thing has become very clear: the significance of the recycling industry as a means to preventing climate change continues to be underestimated. And yet there are so many excellent examples that demonstrate how sending waste for materials recycling not only protects our environment and conserves our dwindling supplies of natural resources but also helps to curb global warming. REMONDIS’ Lippe Plant in Lünen reduces emissions of CO2 equivalents by almost half a million tonnes every year by recycling waste and producing regenerative energy. And this is just one plant in REMONDIS’ network of approx. 500 facilities. If the whole world were to use the full potential of the raw materials and energy hidden in waste, then recycling would put an end to global warming. Logically, Klima Expo.NRW has accepted three more of REMONDIS’ areas of expertise onto its list of qualified projects following the nomination of its biogas plant in Coesfeld at the beginning of the year. These and other recycling plants and projects will help to spread the message that recycling has a long list of advantages and is one of the best ways to counteract climate change.  

    Recycled paper is one of these raw materials that can help curb global warming: it can be used as a substitute for paper made from virgin fibres and so help reduce the need to fell our trees. The following figures clearly demonstrate that sustainable forest management is not at the top of every country’s list. We are currently losing around 13 million hectares or 130,000km² of forest every single year. That is the equivalent to a forest the size of England being cut down every year. Forests are an effective way of preventing climate change as each and every tree absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. Paper recycling helps protect our forests and probably has the biggest impact on the carbon footprint of our informed society which still turns to paper formats as their main source of information despite the presence of the Internet. REMONDIS provides the paper industry with huge supplies of high quality recycled paper, helping the sector to become more sustainable.

    Sustainability, however, starts before recycling is actually needed. The European Waste Framework Directive puts re-use in second place after waste prevention and ahead of materials recycling. It is, therefore, a logical decision for Daimler, REMONDIS and a number of other partners to set up the world’s largest second use battery storage unit made from used lithium-ion batteries at the Lippe Plant. The batteries, which will come from the growing number of electric cars, still have 90 % of their storage capacity after they can no longer be used in the vehicles – more than enough to help stabilise the grid as more and more electricity is provided by fluctuating regenerative energy sources. After approx.10 years use in this battery storage unit, the batteries can then be sent for efficient materials recycling – perfectly closing the life cycle of this product.

    We would like to thank all our friends, partners and employees for their goodwill and loyalty throughout the past year and wish them a very happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year. 

    Yours

    Max Koettgen

A chance discovery leading to a major incident

  • Bonn, September 2015: Having recently inherited a house in the Muffendorf district of Bonn, the new owners decided to travel to the property to clear it out. During their tidy out, they discovered some old rusty metal drums, some of which had a sticky yellow substance oozing out of them. They could also see some faded warning labels that made it very clear that whatever was in the containers was poisonous. The family immediately rang the fire brigade, who then called in BUCHEN UmweltService’s emergency management team. Removing these containers proved to be a difficult business and not one that the operatives get to do every day.

Banned substance stored in metal drums

  • The substance had been stored in five 10kg containers under the roof of a dilapidated outbuilding – and had probably been there for a very long time. One of the containers was broken; a second was corroded and had lost its lid. It very quickly became clear to all those present that this was a job for highly trained specialists as the substance was a pesticide that had been banned many years ago. The pesticide had reacted with the metal and turned into a highly explosive mixture. Sensitive to movement, pressure, friction and changes in temperature, the chemical might explode at any time – and have the same effect as 20 kilograms of TNT.

  • The substance had been stored in five 10kg containers under the roof of a dilapidated outbuilding

A concept of individual steps and processes

BUCHEN UmweltService’s emergency management team got straight down to work. “We started contacting people in our network, acting as general contractor to make sure we had the right specialists on hand to do the job,” explained Gero Buchartz, head of the company’s emergency management division. Working together with a crisis management group consisting of representatives of the fire brigade, the state office of criminal investigations and the bomb disposal squad as well as the environment agency and local regulatory office, a suitable concept and fixed schedule were drawn up within no time at all.

A rapid response team: BUCHEN’s 24-hour emergency management division ensures pollution incidents are handled safely.

The first step was to dampen down the chemical wherever it had escaped to reduce its reactivity. Once that had been done, the substance was carefully removed from the two drums that were leaking their contents. BUCHEN’s sister company, XERVON, had erected scaffolding around the outbuilding to ensure that the operatives had a safe platform to work from. A sprinkler system had been attached to the scaffold as well as a camera that could be used to monitor the inside of the building. The sprinkler system had been designed by the company itself and was made primarily of plastic. Standard metal systems were out of the question – they would turn into dangerous missiles if the chemicals exploded.

Stringent safety standards

  • All properties within a 100-metre exclusion zone were evacuated during the first day. Once everyone had left, the team moved in and used the sprinkler system to sprinkle the room under the attic with water as the chemical had dripped through the planks to the area below. One of BUCHEN’s high performance vacuum / cleaning trucks was brought in to remove the liquid. Next, the room was cleared out and filled with Styrodur polystyrene boards to support the rotten wooden ceiling. The operatives, equipped with special measuring equipment, had to wear chemical protective suits and respirator masks.

    The following step was the trickiest part of the operation: using the sprinkler, the poisonous substance was washed out of the damaged drums. Thanks to the CCTV system, the water pumps could be controlled from a safe distance. A special basin was used to collect the water and transfer it to a special container so that practically all of the water was able to be recovered. BUCHEN’s vacuum / cleaning truck was deployed here, too, to remove any spillage from the floor – which had been sealed off before the work began – and to pump it into special containers. Five hours later, the team were able to relax after all of the chemical had been washed out and safely stored.

      The drums had to be handled with extreme caution

      All the neighbours were evacuated from their homes

The emergency team expertly coordinated the different tasks – ensuring that all rules and regulations were adhered to at all times.

Great team work

  • The next day was spent removing the sealed drums. This time, however, only the immediate next-door neighbours had to leave their homes as the risks were considerably lower. After the roof had been removed from the outbuilding, the team were able to get a good look at the drums which appeared to be stable and undamaged. The XERVON scaffolders moved in to adjust their scaffold and set up a support system with a remote-controlled hoisting device. One by one, the drums were carefully lifted out of the building, placed in a special insulated transport container and then loaded into an explosion-proof spherical container attached to the bomb disposal squad’s special trailer.

    BUCHEN also carried out the follow-up work: professionally packing and removing all the contaminated materials and cleaning all the surfaces affected by the pesticide. All of those taking part agreed that the collaboration work between the teams had been excellent – it could not have gone more smoothly.

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