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  • Dear Readers!

    Everyone’s greatest wish at the moment is for life to return to normal. So let us take a look at the positive things that have happened. And there have been a great deal of them, many of which can be put down to the very good collaboration with you – our partners, friends and employees. As the year draws to a close, it is traditionally a time to take stock of the last twelve months and happily 2020 was not as bad as may have been expected considering the overall situation. At the same time, we can look ahead to 2021 with hope and optimism.

    One example is our return to the Dual System, the scheme in Germany for managing old sales packaging. Maybe some of you may remember when we withdrew our own Dual System, EKO-PUNKT, from the market in the summer of 2014 as it had become impossible to predict the legal and business risks at the time. But then the Packaging Law came into force – finally putting an end to the infinite number of amendments that were being made to the old Packaging Ordinance. Which means that the necessary framework conditions are now in place for us to return to the Dual System market. Following its first attempt (the acquisition of DSD which was unfortunately turned down by the monopolies commission), REMONDIS has now purchased RK, a Dual System that owns a full set of valid licences but, as yet, has no share of the market. Ideal conditions for us to play a role in this market again – something that is as natural for a recycling firm to do as it is for Father Christmas to wear a red hat. And so RK will become the new EKO-PUNKT Dual System. In the style of that famous film from the 80s, we’re going “Back to the future!”

    Christmas is also a time where we may traditionally make a wish. The European Commission and the German government wish to have so-called green steel, i.e. steel that is produced without fossil fuels and so emits as little CO2 as possible. Focus is being put here on “green hydrogen” as a potential climate-neutral source of energy. As with so many wishes, however, the first question is where should this green energy come from? And, above all, who should pay for it? Leaving aside the fact that there is as yet no official definition for green steel, the chances of there being sufficient supplies of green hydrogen available on the market any time soon would appear to be slim with the development towards renewable electricity generation moving so slowly. And yet, this sought-after green steel has been around for ages. It is produced from high quality scrap steel, over eight million tonnes of which is recovered and returned to production cycles by TSR using a process that is for the most part climate neutral – without having to consume land, without having to use additional resources and without having to needlessly transport material half way around the globe. Sounds almost like Christmas, but it’s true.

    Against the backdrop of all this good news, we would like to thank you all for the great collaboration work. May we take this opportunity to wish you a happy Christmas and all the very best for the coming year.

    Yours

    Thomas Conzendorf

New opportunities for the circular economy

  • One of the decisions that REMONDIS has made this year has been to invest in the firm, Westphalia DataLab (WDL). This is the first time that the recycling company has become part of a start-up business that focuses on data science and AI. In a recent interview, Ludger Rethmann, REMONDIS Board Chairman, explained how this decision was reached and what opportunities it will open up for the whole of the circular economy.

Mr Rethmann, it’s fairly unusual for REMONDIS to invest in start-ups. What goal are you pursuing by investing in Westphalia DataLab and, in particular, in the fields of AI and data science?

Ludger Rethmann: By investing in the business, we’re hoping to set an example und underline just how much we believe in Westphalia DataLab’s business model. Both the smart analysis of data and the value of data in general are still vastly underrated today, particularly in our sector. Another goal here is, of course, to work with Westphalia DataLab and use the data that is available to benefit our Group. What’s more, we want to strengthen our IT in Münster by involving an IT firm that will treat and analyse our company’s wealth of information confidentially so that our processes can become smarter and more efficient.

How do you think smart, technological tools can improve REMONDIS’ services?

Ludger Rethmann: There’s most definitely a great deal of potential in our industry to use IT to further improve processes, products and services. There is a whole host of opportunities right along the supply chain – starting with refuse collection, to sorting waste, all the way through to the actual recycling processes. Naturally, the first link in our service chain starts on the roads. Using artificial intelligence to improve waste collection routes will not only make our work more efficient but also more environmentally friendly. Another very important subject here is how well waste is segregated. There is a general rule that applies here: namely, that the better the waste materials are separated from each other at source, the higher the quality of the recycled raw materials will be. Recognising outthrow material in waste, therefore, also plays a major role here. With the help of cutting-edge image recognition technology and deep learning algorithms, it is possible to identify, select and remove prohibitive materials – and this makes the whole process fully automated. AI could lead to lower processing costs and genuinely help to preserve natural resources as it would hugely improve the recyclability of the waste streams. What’s more, I believe this technology can really benefit our municipal customers. Water supply and wastewater treatment companies are currently having to deal with the impact of heavy rain and droughts on their operations. AI enables more exact weather forecasts to be drawn up, which means pumping stations can be utilised more effectively and are better protected against wear and tear.

“Both the smart analysis of data and the value of data in general are still vastly underrated today, particularly in our sector.”

Ludger Rethmann, REMONDIS Board Chairman

This investment is also of great significance for WDL with REMONDIS being the largest recycling firm in Germany. How did this collaboration come about?

Ludger Rethmann: The whole subject of big data is certainly one that many traditional, conservative-leaning, family-run companies are approaching with caution. And most definitely Westphalian family-owned firms like REMONDIS. With our guidelines in mind and with us pursuing our objective to continue to be Germany’s largest recycling, service and water company in the future as well, we decided to look for a partner working in this field. WDL, with its down-to-earth and friendly manner, convinced us of the importance of this sometimes complex subject and was accepted and appreciated by those working at our firm within a very short period of time. Despite being far removed from the REMONDIS Group’s actual operations, they have succeeded in understanding what our industry is all about and presenting us with ideas that have genuinely increased the value of our products and services.

What is it about Westphalia DataLab that makes it so exciting?

Ludger Rethmann: WDL is able to grasp our processes really quickly and to show us where there is potential for improvement. It is amazing what comes to light when something is approached from a different angle and it makes sense here to have someone from the outside look at our company. We are very open-minded and are grateful to WDL for its feedback and ideas.

Have you got any concrete plans for Westphalia DataLab now that you are an investor in the company?

  • Ludger Rethmann: Working together with WDL and the other family-run business owners, we wish to establish a company on the market that offers know-how that – in the best case scenario – not only benefits the circular economy but many other industries as well. This is all about making the most of AI and data analysis to grow resource conservation and recycling. The two are not mutually exclusive – in fact, the very opposite is true.

    • Ludger Rethmann, REMONDIS Board Chairman

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