There are so many different facets to sustainability – especially at a company such as ours that works each and every day to conserve our planet's natural resources and curb global warming. Why not take a trip around our 'World of Sustainability' to find out more?!
The whole notion of sustainability will be a lost cause unless we take action here and now to conserve our planet's natural resources. Future generations and today's developing countries will only be able to enjoy prosperous lives if steps are taken right now to counteract the growing shortages of raw materials. For us – being one of the world's leading recycling, service and water companies – there can be only one goal: to tackle this problem and lead by example. Why not join us on this path?!
'Recycling rather than disposal'. This is a principle that we never fail to follow – doing everything in our power to close product life cycles so that fewer raw materials need to be mined and processed using energy-intensive machinery. A principle we follow with the highest levels of commitment and always with state-of-the-art technologies. Recycling is far too important for us to sit back and be satisfied with what has been achieved so far.
The Lippe Plant in Lünen is not only a high tech site, it is also an important project for combatting global warming. The various activities carried out at the site help to cut carbon emissions by 466,000t every single year. For a forest to have the same effect, it would need to contain 37 million trees. Certainly a lovely place to take a walk in but perhaps not an ideal place for creating 1,400 jobs.
According to the UN, access to clean water is a basic human right. Looking at the bare facts, however, 748 million people around the world are still taking their drinking water from polluted sources. What can local companies do to help here? A great deal – as can be seen by REMONDIS’ international projects.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for all living organisms on Earth. There is, therefore, a huge demand for this substance. Over one million tonnes of phosphorus are needed in Europe alone every single year – as a source material for products such as fertilisers and animal feed. REMONDIS has developed patented processes to recover this material.
People searching for an argument in favour of plastics recycling need look no further than at our seas and oceans. Vast areas of waste are floating around in them and are so big that they can even be seen from space. This problem, however, can only be solved on Earth – with more responsible consumer behaviour and systematic plastics recycling.
Unfortunately memories are not the only things left behind by brownfield sites. Such land is often highly contaminated. Every year, our company REMEX ProTerra handles, processes and treats 1.7 million tonnes of soil in order to reclaim land.
Dangerous substances are part of our everyday life. Empty batteries, for example, contain harmful mercury and must be recycled using special processes. REMONDIS is the right place to turn to here as well. We have access to state-of-the-art technologies for treating hazardous waste – including systems for recycling mercury.
Every year, REMONDIS’ Lippe Plant generates 336,900 MWh of carbon-neutral energy from incinerating waste – energy, therefore, that is produced without any fossil fuels. Moreover, we are constantly working on developing new ways to produce green electricity and heat.
Talking the talk but not walking the walk? Not at REMONDIS. It goes without saying that our all-encompassing view of sustainability also includes us being sustainable ourselves. This covers all aspects of our business – from the energy efficiency levels of our head office buildings, all the way through to ensuring that all our locations adhere to our high social standards, no matter where in the world they may be.
Every company tries to make a profit. And things are no different at REMONDIS either. For us, however, money is always a means to a good end – which is why a large part of the profits we make is invested in developing new and innovative recycling processes and technologies. Helping to preserve our planet’s valuable natural resources.
An ever growing number of employees are looking to find a job that allows them to do work that is both meaningful and sustainable. That’s exactly what they’ll find at our company – no matter what their qualifications or level of education may be. As far as we are concerned, our motto “Working for the future” also means making it possible for people to have a future.
Ergonomic workstation assessments are carried out at regular intervals to ensure our workstations are safe and healthy places. Moreover we have stringent safety standards in place so that our workforce remains healthy – and not just those who sit while they work but also those working high up in the air, such as our industrial climbers.
Our new head office building, which officially opened in 2010, is a prime example of high efficiency. Several of REMONDIS’ innovative recycled products were used for the construction work. The heat generated by the building’s own computer centre is used to heat the offices and meeting rooms. The temperature regulation system automatically turns the heating off in a room if a window is opened. All in all, a really smart building.
One of our company’s most important features is its decentralised organisation. We have built up close ties with the towns and cities where we are located and do everything in our power to support their local economy – in keeping, therefore, with our maxim of ‘thinking globally and acting locally’.
The movement to help preserve our planet’s natural resources is an international concern but the first step begins with each individual and the way they think. Dedication and a commitment to sustainability, therefore, must be thought through at global level but the message must also reach the people on the ground and must inspire them to join in. REMONDIS’ projects show how this can be done.
Sustainability is not a state or a condition but an ongoing process. First and foremost, sustainability is team work. Which is why we cooperate closely with experts and research institutes that also feel strongly about conserving our planet’s natural resources and preventing climate change. Such work always leads to new approaches and innovations.
We worked together with the independent Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT to develop this unique Sustainability Certificate. It provides our customers with documented proof of how our services help their business to conserve resources and cut carbon emissions.
Recycling starts much earlier than most people realise – namely when a product is actually being designed. It is certainly true that composite materials are very useful for our everyday lives. They are, however, causing a real problem when they are no longer needed as it is practically impossible – or only with a huge effort – to separate the materials from each other so that they can be recycled for reuse. The only way to solve this problem is to systematically implement the principle of ecodesign, which takes the environmental compatibility of a product into account from its development all the way through to the end of its useful life. Including the recyclability of the product and to what extent recycled raw materials can be used to produce it in the first place.
All around the world, local authorities and public sector customers are opting to work with REMONDIS and make the very most of its specialist knowledge. The outcome of setting up these so-called public private partnerships is stable fees for the local inhabitants as well as professional waste treatment processes – combined with the highest possible recycling rates. Positive outcomes that also benefit the environment.
One of the top priorities for companies wishing to run a responsible business is to ensure they have sustainable production processes in place. REMONDIS is always happy to help out here with its know-how. Our portfolio of services ranges from treating wastewater, to processing residual materials, all the way through to producing biogas – all of which are delivered on site at our customers'.
Raw materials don’t disappear, they are just hidden away. Today’s complex products consist of so many tiny elements that it seems practically impossible to recover them and separate them according to type. Focusing on material streams can make things much easier.
Copy our technology? Yes please! Our recycling operations in Lünen are acting as a role model around the globe and have even received an award from KlimaExpo.NRW. We have succeeded in transferring our know-how to many flourishing regions around the world, such as to the Eco Industrial Parks in Asia, which are now run in line with the Lippe Plant’s high standards.
The latest studies have revealed that each and every one of us could do a great deal more towards conserving our planet’s natural resources. Simply by separating our waste better – i.e. less commingling. If we all did this, then a further 7.8 million tonnes of recyclables could be returned to production cycles in Germany alone. This is the equivalent of a further 95kg per inhabitant per year.
A comparison with how nature works shows that what we call a circular flow or closed loop economy is often a bit misleading. This is because, more often than not, people fail to think in a holistic and all-encompassing way. This failure leads to recyclable materials and pollutants being mixed together during production processes, making it impossible for the products to be fully recycled at the end of their useful life. The so-called Cradle to Cradle® design concept aims to help out here.
Products are being developed and improved all the time – not least because of our society's desire to switch to renewable energy. Any environmental benefits that photovoltaic systems, wind turbines and composite insulation boards may bring, however, quickly fall by the wayside if they cannot be sensibly recycled once they reach the end of their useful life. This is where research work must step up to the mark.
Wherever we see an opportunity to drive forward the notion of sustainability and to fix it even more firmly in the minds of people, then we are there, full of passion and enthusiasm for the cause. This covers a whole range of activities – from educational projects, to acting as advisers, to supporting universities.
It makes no difference how many pamphlets politicians and scientists print out about the subject of resource conservation. What is important is just how much of their message is actually taken in by society. Which is why we are doing everything in our power to take the notion of sustainability to where it will truly be absorbed – to kindergartens and classrooms.
We are more than happy to share our knowledge with others. Each and every day, we advise politicians and trade associations about topics such as conserving natural resources and preventing climate change to ensure these issues are given the attention they deserve. Lobbying for sustainable development so to speak.
EURAWASSER Nord, a company belonging to the REMONDIS Group, has been collaborating with the University of Rostock since 1994 – carrying out research work together and promoting young talent. That's quite a few semesters – and quite a few projects as well, of course.
If everyone around the world consumed our planet's natural resources at the same rate as we do in Germany, we would need to have 2.7 Earths to satisfy their demand. There can, therefore, be only one solution: more responsible consumption habits, less waste, better recycling. REMONDIS works with, among others, NABU (German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) to help set the course for a more sustainable future.
The Steigenberger Hotel in Berlin was presented with the "Meeting Experts Green Award" in 2015. Why? Because the events held at the hotel focus on sustainability and carbon compensation. REMONDIS has been helping Steigenberger with its bespoke recycling concept, drawn up to cover the hotel chain's specific requirements.
Everyone is talking about the scarcity of raw materials and about sustainability. But what exactly is behind it all? We decided to do some research to find out what it’s all about – so that we could put together some pages with the most important background information for you to read.
The first time that attention was really paid to sustainability was during the UN Conference on Environment and Development, which was held in Rio in 1992. At the time, the delegates attending the event decided that the problem of greenhouse gases should be tackled in order to reduce levels of carbon emissions around the world. Practically no progress has been made since then. Which means we have even less time now to successfully combat the greenhouse effect.
Whilst sustainability is without doubt a global issue, it still needs to be tackled at national level with each government introducing their own national structures. So what are the different policies – at global, EU and German level? How is sustainability being approached by these different communities? This chapter provides some answers.
Sustainability needs action. Right around the world. The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs – which were drawn up and adopted in 2015 – describe what action needs to be taken so that all 7 billion people living on our planet can enjoy a high quality of life.
Every one of us has at some time or other heard or read of the ‘impending shortage of raw materials’. Just how serious is the situation though? How much of these natural resources do we actually have left and how can we consume less of them? We’ve put together a few examples that answer both these and a number of other questions.
The concept of sustainability is finding an ever greater audience – online as well. We have done our homework for you and sifted through the huge range of websites on this topic. The result is an interesting collection of websites, portals and blogs.
Germany has often been called – and not without justification – a global role model when it comes to recycling. Even role models, however, must take a step back and look at themselves to see how they could do things even better. And there is certainly plenty of room for improvement in Germany. A study drawn up by the INFA Institute in 2014 revealed that 75% of German cities and districts have not yet achieved the highest possible collection and recycling rates. Projecting these results across the whole of the country, this means that a further 7.8 million tonnes of recyclables could be recovered from municipal waste. One way for the most to be made of this additional material would be for politicians to lay down clear efficiency requirements. Irrespective, however, of whether they decide to do this or not, each and every individual and each and every company in Germany could help increase the country's recycling rates right now by simply separating their waste better.
The volumes of recyclables that could still be recovered from German waste
The new recyclables law drafted by the politicians in Berlin merely focuses on 1.5% of residual waste – i.e. on waste made of similar materials to sales packaging – which would increase the volume of recyclables collected by just 5kg per person. According to the INFA study, the volume of additional recyclables that could potentially be collected is actually 19 times higher.
Being Germany's largest recycling business, we also, of course, look closely at how the most could be made of the potential hidden in our country's waste. Our task is to develop systems that process the collected recyclables as efficiently as possible. The better the different materials are separated from each other, the easier it is to reach this goal. It is an undeniable fact that the recyclables (i.e. the materials that can be processed for re-use) that end up in the residual waste bin are in danger of being lost to us for ever. Only a very small number of local authorities have facilities for sorting residual waste. For the most part, this material is sent straight to a waste incineration plant for thermal treatment.
Recyclable material that could potentially be collected in Germany
A much greater volume of materials could be recycled in Germany if waste were segregated more systematically. A further 1.1 million tonnes from other collection systems not mentioned here – e.g. home composting – can be added to the 5.3 and 1.4 million tonnes listed here (potential from residual and bulky waste)
The INFA study not only revealed the potential hidden in municipal waste but also highlighted a number of problems. Perhaps the most pressing problem at the moment has to do with politics and red tape. What the country urgently needs is a recyclables law that guarantees that the kerbside collection of segregated plastics, metals and drinks cartons is carried out in a satisfactory and effective manner. Over the last few years, however, Germany's system of yellow recycling bags and "yellow bins" has proven to be inadequate. These bins and bags are for all types of sales packaging. This is, one the one hand, ineffective because the different materials are commingled and must still be separated from each other at a waste sorting facility. It is also counterproductive as consumers find it difficult to understand the difference between packaging and non-packaging and often throw their recyclables into the wrong bins. In other words: many products end up in the residual waste even though the recycling bin would be a more suitable place for them to be. Some districts have introduced a recycling bin for all waste plastic and metal – i.e. packaging and non-packaging – but this is still not an ideal solution.
It is not always necessary to create new laws to ensure the most is made of the waste that could potentially be recycled. Sometimes it is simply a matter of making sure that the existing regulations are enforced across the country. The organic waste bin is a great example of this. Although its use has been prescribed by law, there are still areas where it is not being used. The outcome here is that huge volumes of organic waste are ending up in the residual waste bin and so are unable to be recycled, for example to produce biogas. The organic waste collection rates are particularly bad in large cities with more than 2,000 inhabitants per km2. The average annual volume collected by such towns lies far below 30kg of biowaste per inhabitant. As a comparison: the city with the highest collection rate – the medium-sized town of Coesfeld – collects over 180kg per inhabitant. The biogas plants there, which are run by REMONDIS, are able to produce environmentally friendly energy for 1,400 households.
Looking at the findings regarding the volumes of recyclables that could still potentially be collected in Germany, REMONDIS decided to go a step further and commissioned two institutes to carry out a further independent study on their behalf. Their remit was to find out to what extent better recycling practices could reduce volumes of carbon emissions. This is particularly relevant because the waste management sector (and, therefore, REMONDIS) is under an obligation to gradually improve its carbon footprint – as all other industries are, too. An obligation, by the way, that our industry has been most successful at compared to all other sectors (looking at total emissions since 1990). The findings of the study carried out by CUTEC and Fraunhofer Umsicht are as persuasive as they are astounding. If all the recyclables that are currently being thrown into the residual waste bin were to be collected and recycled, then greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 1.6 million tonnes every year. That is the same amount of CO2 emitted by 557,000 households over a twelve-month period.
What can be achieved by increasing collection rates
When we talk about the volumes of materials that are not yet being collected for recycling, we are not, of course, only thinking about municipal waste and what can be achieved today. What is perhaps even more important is what the future will bring. In particular the challenges that the businesses specialising in recovering raw materials, such as ourselves, will have to face. A look at the technology metals – i.e. the metals that are primarily used in high tech – reveals that there is much room for improvement here. The recycling rate currently lies at a mere 1%. The reason for this is because, at the moment, it still makes very little business sense to recycle such metals – for example, the so-called rare earths. Emphasis, however, should be put on "at the moment". Experts have been issuing warnings that supply levels of some rare earths may, sooner or later, become critical. One reason for this is that the majority of these substances are found in China which is considering introducing strict export regulations or even stopping exports all together. It is, therefore, necessary to think about systematically recycling rare earths and to find viable ways to recover them.
German recycling rates for classic metals, such as copper and iron, are 'good' to 'very good'. There is, however, still much room for improvement when it comes to the so-called rare earths
At the moment, practically all of the metals being recycled are production waste. By implication this means that once the metals have been installed in a product and bought by consumers they are unlikely to be recovered and returned to production cycles. There are simply not enough collection and recycling options around. What is needed is a recycling sector that focuses on recovering metals that are found in only tiny amounts in products. We have stepped up to this challenge by developing new processes. One example here is the state-of-the-art metal processing facility run by our subsidiary, TSR. Its facility in Buchloe in the south of Germany has developed a novel process for recycling aluminium that sorts the material according to various criteria (density, electrical conductivity, shape, colour). The outcome is a quality of aluminium recycling that has never been achieved before. Development, however, is not only made in the field of technology but always includes political and/or legislative components as well. Which is why we make every effort to ensure that framework conditions are created to make such recycling processes easier to implement.
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