Please fill out all the fields marked with an asterisk * and then click on "Send form".
The article has been sent
Thank you for your recommendationClose window
For 24 months now, it has been obligatory for organic waste to be segregated from other types of waste and collected separately across Germany. At the moment, however, only around 55% of German households have their own organic waste bin and one eighth of all local authorities have not even set up a separate organic waste collection scheme yet. When asked why they have failed to comply with the law, local politicians primarily give economic reasons to justify their actions – or rather lack of action: their ongoing contracts with waste incineration plants or the high costs involved in setting up a new collection scheme. AHE GmbH and the Ennepe-Ruhr district authorities, however, have demonstrated with their biogas plant in Witten that such schemes can be turned into a profitable business.
Digesting organic waste makes an important contribution towards preventing climate change. Carbon emissions are cut by 4,000 tonnes every year in the Ennepe-Ruhr district alone. Operators of biogas plants are proud of such figures as they underline just how much potential there still is in the recycling sector to protect the environment. And yet these environmental arguments would appear to fall on deaf ears when it comes to the local authorities. They still question whether collecting organic waste separately can be profitable or not. The costs, they say, of setting up a new collection scheme are too high and it would be too complicated to work out the charges.
In contrast, AHE managing director, Jürgen F. Ephan, says this is an easy problem to solve. The City of Witten is an excellent example. The local residents there only pay a fee for their residual waste bin, all their other bins are free. “This system works perfectly!” he said. The reason behind this is logical: separating waste streams from each other properly – especially residual and organic waste – reduces the weight of the residual waste bin which, in turn, reduces the fees charged for this bin. The local residents are, therefore, able to directly influence the size of their bill for their residual waste bin.
AHE, a public private partnership between REMONDIS and AVU GmbH, officially opened its biogas plant in Witten in 2013 which is still one of the most modern of its kind in Germany. At the opening ceremony, Johannes Remmel, Environmental Minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, called it “a shining example” – also because it clearly illustrated the advantages of the public and private sectors working together. Indeed, without this collaboration, this investment project would not have been possible. Each year, AHE recycles 25,000 tonnes of organic waste on behalf of the district authorities and supplies 2,000 households with electricity. Besides generating energy, the plant also produces compost and liquid fertiliser which it sells on to its customers.
Were it to be needed, the Witten digestion plant even has the capacity to handle the organic waste from the nearby city of Hagen. Hagen, however, owns a waste incineration plant and has up to now refused to provide its local inhabitants with organic waste bins. The city authorities there fear that they will not have sufficient quantities of residual waste to operate their plant if they introduce a separate collection scheme for organic waste. This is an argument heard all around the country and one that is easy to disprove. By introducing an organic waste collection scheme, Hagen would cut its annual costs by around 750,000 euros – as digesting this waste is about a third cheaper than incinerating it. “It is a complete mystery to me why local authorities do not pass on these savings to their residents,” commented Jürgen F. Ephan.
“It is a complete mystery to me why local authorities
do not pass on these savings to their residents.”
Jürgen F. Ephan, AHE Managing Director
He is, above all, calling for laws to be passed that make the most of the opportunities available. “Unfortunately, the German government’s current term of office has not been one that includes ambitious environmental policies. We will need much greater support if sustainable laws are to be strictly implemented in the future,” he concluded. Each and every day, recycling businesses do all they can to convince local politicians of the need to tackle environmental problems together as well as to make local residents more aware of these issues.
If the environmental ministers of the German states were to carry out their duty and enforce the new law to ensure organic waste was collected separately, then up to four million tonnes of materials could be recycled and reused in the future instead of being lost to us forever in waste incineration plants, as is the case at the moment. At the same time, capacities at the incineration plants would be freed up for other types of waste. Whilst the state ministries claim that importing waste from abroad would lead to an increase in incineration costs, it is in fact the failure to separate paper, glass and organic waste from each other that pushes up the volumes of materials being sent to German incineration plants.