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  • Dear Readers!

    Many people in Europe could hardly believe the news when they woke up on 24 June to discover a slim majority of Britons had voted in favour of Brexit. Leading economists, politicians, business people, artists and scientists had repeatedly called for the UK to remain in the EU so that the problems of globalisation could be tackled together as one strong community. Their words were in vain; the majority of Britons decided that the best way forward was to take a step back towards the sup­posedly good old days of 'splendid isolation'. No-one at that time, however, could have anticipated that this was just a precursor of an even bigger political earthquake. On 08.11. American voters elected Donald Trump to be their next president. Never before had the country experienced such a populist movement and his comments do not bode well either for the global economy or for a peaceful co-existence between nations. Only time will tell whether or to what extent President Trump will try and change global economic and political structures. Only then will we be able to see what impact this will all have on Europe. However, no matter how much the new President tries to deny the very existence of climate change, there is one thing that is clear right now: the world’s population will continue to grow and the challenges of meeting people’s needs and tackling the planet’s environmental problems will not become easier in the future. Our recommendation to Donald Trump, therefore, would be to take a look at the country of his ancestors – at Germany, where solutions are already being developed to create a sustainable supply of raw materials for the future.  

    Over 40 years ago, when the recycling sector was just beginning to find its feet in Germany (thanks also to the many contributions made by REMONDIS), there were approx. 3.5 billion people living on our planet. At that time, recycling was considered by many to be nothing more than a bit of a gimmick. The world had enough raw materials and plenty of space for storing waste – so why do more than we have to? The human race needed just under 100,000 years to reach 3.5 billion people. This figure has doubled within just 40 years! By 2050, it is expected to rise to 10 billion. The so-called Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year, was even earlier this year: on 08 August. Since then, we have effectively been living as if we have a second planet to fall back on.

    The recycling sector already offers solutions to these problems at a number of different levels: supplying raw materials, generating energy, protecting water supplies and the environment, curbing global warming and even taking on social responsibilities. 14% of the raw materials used in Germany are supplied by the recycling industry, an important step to separating economic growth and the consumption of natural resources from one another. If our production processes are to be sustainable and affordable in the future, then all products and raw materials must be recovered and reused. For this to be possible, however, politicians around the world must drive this development and introduce ambitious laws to ensure it happens. We need higher recycling targets and mandatory ecodesign guidelines that force manufacturers to design their products so that they can be fully recycled once they reach the end of their useful life.

    Recycling would be become mandatory in a future where all raw materials and products – no matter whether it be a smartphone, car or plane – must be designed in line with ecological criteria. Children working in mines in third world countries would be a thing of the past. Wars would no longer be fought to gain access to natural resources. Innovative processes would mean that our wastewater could be used to produce clean drinking water and as a source of phosphorus for fertilisers, building supplies and energy. Collecting and recycling organic waste around the globe and turning it into high quality compost or using it to generate renewable energy would, for the most part, solve the problem of climate change – and also provide great prospects for growth.

    With this optimistic look into the future, may I wish you and your families a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

    Ludger Rethmann

Awards ceremony in Kiel Castle

  • The waste incineration plant, Müllverbrennung Kiel GmbH & Co. KG, had a cause for celebration in October. It was presented with the ‘Umweltpreis der Wirtschaft’ (an environmental business award) by StFG, an association promoting education, business and culture in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. This highly coveted award was handed over to the company during a ceremony held in Kiel Castle on 10 October.

Environmental protection is important for the economy

This year’s environmental prize was awarded to Müllverbrennung Kiel GmbH & Co. KG, a joint venture between the City of Kiel and REMONDIS GmbH und Co. KG, in recognition of the safe and environmentally sound processes it uses to dispose of around 140,000 tonnes of household and commercial waste each year and of the reliable services it provides the approx. 500,000 local inhabitants. Presented for the very first time in 1984, this award reflects just how important the subject of environmental protection is for companies located in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. “MVK’s focus is always on finding effective and innovative ways to protect the environment,” explained Dr Frank Ehlers, managing director of MVK. Uli Wachholz, chairman of StFG (Studien- und Fördergesellschaft der Schleswig-holsteinischen Wirtschaft) handed over the bronze plaque, designed and made by Georg Engst, and the certificate during the awards ceremony at Kiel Castle.

    The energy generated by the waste incineration processes covers 20% of the district heat needed in Kiel and supplies electricity to around 10,000 households

High energy efficiency levels at the MVK

MVK uses residual waste to produce valuable reusable materials such as IBA, metals, gypsum and acids as well as to generate district heat and electricity – and achieves extremely high energy efficiency levels (72%). The waste incineration plant in Kiel is, therefore, one of the waste-to-energy plants in Germany with the lowest emission levels. “Indeed, 50% of MVK is effectively a biomass-fired plant,” commented Dr Frank Ehlers. All this means that MVK is making an important contribution towards helping Kiel reach its environmental targets: the energy generated by the waste incineration processes covers 20% of the district heat needed in Kiel and supplies electricity to around 10,000 households – with more than half of this being carbon-neutral.

Investments amounting to 2 billion euros

  • “We have succeeded in achieving MVK’s comparatively high energy efficiency levels by continuously developing and improving the plant,” the managing director of MVK continued. The company has invested around 2 million euros in new technology over the last few years. Since it was commissioned, gas consumption has been reduced by 8,500 MWh/year, the equivalent of the annual amount of heat required by 500 households. “We have, therefore, substituted natural gas, a fossil fuel, with energy from residual materials. This is clearly helping to improve the city’s carbon footprint,” commented Dr Frank Ehlers.

    • Presented with the environmental business prize for the state of Schleswig-Holstein: MVK Managing Director, Dr Frank Ehlers (centre), accepting the prize together with Wolfgang Steen (REMONDIS Nord), Lord Mayor of Kiel Dr Ulf Kämpfer, Sabine Schirdewahn, Plant Manager of Eigenbetrieb-Beteiligungen (owned by the City of Kiel), and Rüdiger Karschau, Chairman of MVK’s Supervisory Board

Recycling waste helps curb global warming

Both household and commercial waste contain substances that may pose a risk to the environment. The furnace is, therefore, operated at a very high temperature to ensure all pollutants are destroyed. The six-step flue gas cleaning system then removes any remaining environmentally hazardous substances. “MVK helps reduce the volumes of contaminants, removing organic pollutants and heavy metals,” Dr Ehlers stressed, pointing out a further important aspect of how the thermal treatment of waste can actively help to curb global warming. If the waste in Kiel were to be sent to landfill, as was the case in the past, then the materials would generate methane, a greenhouse gas that has a huge impact on our climate. This can be avoided by thermally treating waste. The by-products from this treatment can also be reused in a variety of ways – IBA for building roads, metals for recycling, gypsum for the construction industry and filter dust for back-filling mines – ensuring that the household and commercial waste generated in and around Kiel is recycled to protect the environment.

  • In its latest video, MV Kiel presents both its business and its award-winning measures to protect the environment (German only)

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