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.
Our planet’s raw materials are finite. And yet we still treat them as if they will last forever. A mere 14% of the raw materials needed in Germany are supplied by the recycling sector. And this despite the fact that recycled raw materials are not only of the same high quality but also better for our climate and carbon footprint.
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.
If anyone knows how the Green Deal works, then it is us. This can be seen not only by the innovative ways we produce recycled raw materials and renewable energies, but also by our many efforts to combat climate change. A good example of this is the ban on landfills here in Germany, which was initiated by us. We have been calling for such a ban to be adopted across the whole of Europe for many years now. This would lead to GHG emissions in one of the four biggest industrial sectors falling by 67% in one fell sweep.
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 great demand for this substance. Huge volumes of phosphorus are needed in Europe alone every single year – as a source material for products such as fertilisers and animal feed. The search is on, therefore, for innovations that are up to the challenge of recovering this substance.
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.
Disposable nappies are a real problem as far as sustainability is concerned. For the most part, they go from the changing mat straight into the residual waste bin – and from there to the incineration plant. This is most certainly not eco-friendly. And does absolutely nothing to conserve natural resources. The answer to this problem is to recycle them.
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.
The whole concept of sustainability may, in itself, be timeless. The following statement is true, however, when it is applied to our everyday lives: the latest product developments can only help us conserve our planet's natural resources, if the recycling sector – and the technology it uses – progresses at the same rate. We participate in a whole range of different research projects, making the very most of our know-how to ensure this happens. At the heart of all these projects is the idea that products, which aim to grow sustainability, would be far more effective if they were able to be efficiently recycled. Or put in other words: any energy saved by using complex composite insulation systems is worth only half its value if the materials impact negatively on the environment once they have been discarded.
A collection scheme for wind turbines? Why not. REMONDIS already provides the services needed to ensure they can be recycled efficiently.
We have been collaborating with a number of partners from the worlds of industry and science for several years now to take a closer look at an aspect of recycling that will become more and more important as we move into the future. With the use of fibre-reinforced composites increasing all the time, this project has been concentrating on finding ways to process and recycle these materials so that they can be reused. We have chosen to focus the attention of our research and development work on the automobile industry as it is so dependent on carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRPs) for building lightweight vehicles. Indeed, it is hard to find another sector that is so reliant on CFRPs. One of the car industry’s top priorities is to further reduce the weight of its vehicles as it moves towards e-mobility. The problem: the EU Directive on end-of-life vehicles stipulates that at least 95% of the total weight of a car must be recycled or reused. Vehicle manufacturers are, therefore, keen to recover, recycle and return as many of the CRFP components to production cycles as possible. With the mix of material being so complex, this is not going to be an easy task. And this is precisely where the ReLei project comes into play – a project that, with REMONDIS’ help, is looking to develop a production and recycling strategy for electromobility to enable lightweight components in fibre-reinforced composite hybrid structures to be recycled for reuse.
With fibre-reinforced composites being so complex, it is essential that all those involved collaborate to enable these materials to be recycled for reuse. An integral concept must be created that takes all activities into account – production processes, material preparation work and dismantling and binding technology – and, of course, the concept must be implemented. The complete life cycle of the materials and products must be taken into consideration. And this is precisely what we and our partners have been doing with the ReLei project. To be able to show how this might be done, the project focused on just one object: the rear shelf of a car. We chose this specific product used by the automobile industry as it is made up of a combination of very different composite materials making it extremely difficult to recycle.
The results of this joint project are something to be proud of. The partners succeeded in recovering and separating all the different materials – from metals, all the way through to the various kinds of plastic. Several screening systems were needed in some cases to separate the plastics from each other. And it was most certainly well worth the effort. The dismantling and treatment process created a number of different materials that could be returned to production cycles straight away, including recycled non-woven fabric as well as recycled plastics suitable for injection moulding.
The different project areas and the participants responsible for this particular R&D work (Source / graphic: ILK, TU Dresden)
We have been working together with the University of Applied Sciences in Münster, carrying out pilot tests to see how the different materials in composite insulation boards can be separated from each other and recycled. Initial trial runs have already been performed at a construction waste sorting plant in the German town of Mettmann. Yes, even conventional sorting plants such as this one can recover individual components without having to make any specific changes. However, further adjustments are going to have to be made to enable the materials to be separated better from each other so they can be recycled for re-use.
We are currently carrying out a number of test programmes to find out how certain adjustments may produce better results – for example by altering the existing parameters (such as extending the time the material is in the mechanical systems), adding extra retention facilities or using completely new processes.
Renewable energy products are creating new recycling challenges – composite insulation boards are just one example
That research is well worth its while can clearly be seen by the work we carry out in Olpe (a town in the Sauerland region) each and every day. It was here that REMONDIS pooled together its extensive know-how to set up a centre for processing obsolete wind turbines. There are two main challenges to recycling these turbines: their size and the composition of their material. By the time the blades have reached the end of our recycling processes, they have been broken down into their individual parts and are an ideal material for cement works. The wood and resin contents can be used as fuel. The silicate in the glass fibre is perfect for cancelling out any deficits in the source material used by cement works, as their stone material generally has a low silicon content.
If you are looking for long-term commitment, then you need look no further than at the research collaboration work between our subsidiary EURAWASSER Nord and the University of Rostock. One of the objectives of this project is to develop and implement new water processing technologies. In 2015, for example, a project was launched at the central sewage treatment plant in Rostock to monitor the plant's capacity and optimise the process used to dewater the primary sludge. Moreover, we have been funding a professorship for water management at the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences since 2011.
What is particularly pleasing to see is that our ongoing commitment, which began back in 1994, is being praised beyond the walls of the university. 'Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wirtschaft', a joint initiative started by companies and foundations, presented us with an award in 2014 and 2015 in recognition of our research activities.
The microbial fuel cell project was presented with the German Sustainability Award [Deutsche Nachhaltigkeitspreis] in 2018
We have been collaborating with our project partner Clausthaler Umwelttechnik Forschungszentrum (CUTEC) and a number of other institutions since 2014. Together, we have been looking at how environmentally friendly energy can be produced using a microbial fuel cell. All this is being done as part of the (DEMO-)BioBZ projects, which are being sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The aim of the projects is to develop systems which enable wastewater treatment facilities to contribute towards Germany's efforts to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Our primary contribution here, therefore, is our extensive know-how and expertise in the area of municipal wastewater treatment. At the heart of this project is the idea of having microorganisms act as biocatalysts. This should lead to electricity being generated as a result of the organic substances in the wastewater being biologically broken down. Those taking part in the project have, therefore, been given the task of developing a microbial fuel cell that can be brought to market. And we have got quite a bit closer to this goal over the last few years. The project is to be continued on a much larger scale now that the pilot plant trial phase has been successfully completed. An industrial-scale operational phase will begin as soon as the new plant has been built. This phase is due to run until the end of 2024, during which time the process will also be further optimised.
At the end of 2015, we completed an extremely interesting research project in South Africa – a project that looked into integrated water resource management and involved us cooperating with partners from the world of science in an advisory capacity. One of the milestones of this project is to create suitable structures so that high quality water facilities can be operated that are both economically viable and environmentally friendly. The medium to long-term aim here is to maximise the value added within the water sector. For this to succeed, the country not only needs to import know-how and technology. An important issue here is to get local people and businesses involved so that they feel closely connected to the project. Besides this work, the research team is also examining the whole of the hydrological cycle. The findings should then be used to optimise the so-called water value flow so that the greatest socio-economic benefits can be achieved. First in the Middle Olifants region – and then adapted so it can be implemented in other developing countries around the world.
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