Panel Discussion Treasure Hunt
From rags to riches: Dechema selected exploitation of waste as a strategic resource as the topic for its panel discussion on the occasion of Achema. Now the motto is urban Mining will the cities be the new bonanzas?
The German Recycling Act went into effect on June 1st, making this a highly topical issue. “Aren’t we merely going over old ground?" was the provocative question posed by moderator Prof. Thomas Wirth from the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology right at the start.
Director Thomas Schmid-Unterseh from the German Environment Ministry (BMU) came up with a humorous response: “Maybe we are looking at old recyclables in new containers". On a more serious note, he pointed out that back in the 1970s the law was called the Waste Management Act. The change in terminology alone reflects a new attitude.
“We have 20 years of experience in separated waste collection, a high recycling rate and a high level of public acceptance,” stated Herwart Wilms from Remondis Assets & Services as he outlined the opportunities which arise from an expansion of the existing approach. “We recycle something like 10 elements of the periodic table, but we need 90,” said Prof. Martin Faulstich from the University of Applied Sciences in Munich.
Raising new treasure is proving to be more difficult than expected. The industry is becoming increasingly demanding. Companies scrutinize contamination levels and what the material contains. This applies to waste paper as well as metal. Remondis supplies recycled metal to a blast furnace which in turn provides materials for use in specific automotive parts.
“Our products simply must have the right composition,” said Wilms. Ideally, products can be completely recycled at the end of their lifecycle, as is currently the case with car batteries. In the long run, design for recycling appears to be the best way to increase the overall recycling rate. “That would be a very constructive revolution,” stated Dr. Egbert Lox from Umicore.