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14. May 2018

REMONDIS launches comprehensive raw material initiative

The company is calling for an ecodesign directive, an increase in investments and a system of incentives for industrial businesses while continuing to invest in more and better recycling

At the beginning of 2018, China introduced a ban on imports of 24 different types of waste. Since then, the country has refused to accept low quality waste materials. However, it still needs to satisfy its huge demand for raw materials. This measure is part of China’s raw material strategy (one that is yet to be found here in Germany) and is forcing politicians and businesses in Germany and Europe to re-evaluate their recycling sector and take appropriate action. REMONDIS is calling for a three-pronged approach to bring an end to the problem Europe currently faces trying to find a market for its plastic waste and other waste materials as well as to drive forward the European recycling sector and create a basis for a future-oriented raw material strategy for Germany and the EU.

Both China’s import ban and the impending obligation to increase materials recycling rates to up to 63% from 01 January 2019 onwards are forcing the recycling industry and politicians in Germany and the EU to act – and to act quickly. While the new Packaging Law in Germany is certainly setting the right course for packaging waste, it still falls short in light of the recent changes that have taken place on the global market. The European Union is currently working on a new circular economy package that should considerably raise materials recycling rates across all member states. With the UN forecasting a global population of 10 billion by 2050, however, these measures will not be enough to provide the people around the world with the supplies they need. REMONDIS strongly believes that a future-proof raw material strategy consisting of three fundamental elements is needed to combat this problem and ensure Germany continues to have a viable industrial sector.

1. Ecodesign Directive for energy AND raw material efficiency

The EU needs to introduce an ecodesign directive that includes raw material efficiency – a directive that is, of course, obligatory for all member states. All products must be developed and designed so that preferably all of the raw materials contained in a product can be recovered and recycled when it reaches the end of its useful life. This applies, in particular, to packaging and products from lightweight construction businesses (cars, planes, wind energy technology, consumer electronics etc) as they contain mixed composite materials which cannot be recycled simply because it is either technically or economically not practicable to do so. REMONDIS has developed a recycling label here that would provide consumers with information about the raw material efficiency and recyclability of their products.

2. More investments in sorting, recycling and raw material quality

Both Germany and Europe need to invest a lot more money in their sorting and recycling processes to improve the quality of the raw materials they recover. This is the only way for recycled raw materials to become an attractive alternative for manufacturers – both from point of view of price and quality – and to make it easier for them to get hold of the supplies they need. REMONDIS has launched its own raw material initiative in response to this situation. The company is currently investing in a number of new facilities, including a new plant for recycling polystyrene and other plastics at its Lippe Plant. This new facility, which is due to be commissioned by the end of 2018 at the very latest, will be able to handle 20,000 tonnes of plastics a year, the majority of which will come from WEEE recycling processes.

REMONDIS believes that new systems will be needed to recycle PE, PP and PET plastics over the medium term if recycling rates are to reach the 100% mark and the environmental pollution caused by plastic waste is to be effectively tackled. With this in mind, a number of engineers at REMONDIS have initiated a project to develop and operate so-called chemical recycling facilities. The goal here is to develop and build a pilot plant in collaboration with a large German chemicals company. Chemical recycling involves depolymerisation, a process that enables nearly all types of conventional plastic to be converted into their original source material, making plastic 100% recyclable. Looking at the long term, this may even solve the problem of plastic waste in our seas and oceans if this material can be collected and sent to a chemical recycling facility. As far as organic waste is concerned, REMONDIS is currently investing in seven modern digester facilities to generate biogas that can then be transformed into electricity. Besides the plants in Singen, Frankfurt and Osnabrück, to name just a few, a new biogas plant is also being built at the Lippe Plant in Lünen. This will be accepting waste collected from household organic waste bins in the District of Unna from 2019 onwards. This material will be transformed into methane i n the digester and then used to generate renewable and carbon-neutral electricity, which will be fed into the national grid.

3. A system of incentives to increase the use of recycled raw materials

Incentives need to be introduced in order to encourage the manufacturing industry to use recycled raw materials in their production processes. It is up to the politicians to decide what form of incentives are needed, for example tax benefits for businesses using recycled raw materials or some other kind of tax measure. Such measures are also paramount to achieving the Paris climate protection goals, because any recycled raw material is less hazardous to the climate than its primary counterpart. The target here must be to have increased the rate of recycled raw materials used by industrial businesses from the current 14% to 70% within the next 10 years, if Germany wishes to keep its status as the leading industrial nation.

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