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Give me rubbish, give me scrap. I can always find some use for it

The raw materials revolution: Professional service providers are forging the path from disposables to the global recycling economy. By employing highly specialised IT systems.

The world keeps on turning - and when it comes to products, it's spinning faster and faster. Consumers always want to keep up with the latest trends and old is quickly replaced by new in a correspondingly brief period of time. Whether it's smartphones, television sets, cars or clothing – new possessions create more waste on the one hand, and on the other, generate an ever growing demand for raw materials. New solutions are thus required in this age of climate and environmental protection and the topic of recycling is one which no one can continue to ignore. The raw materials revolution is taking place.

Germany is one of the pioneers in this field. Clearly there's still some way to go, but nevertheless, Germany is blazing a trail. Just 30 years ago, practically all waste was buried in landfill sites or incinerated in large scale incinerator facilities. Only a few reusable materials such as paper and glass were actually recycled. This is the case today for an ever growing number of electrical appliances – and for two thirds of all household waste.

In many countries, decrees and legislation regulate how used cars, electrical appliances, batteries or packaging should be disposed of and impose a recycling requirement – from the cradle to the grave.

Most of the 50,000 or more German landfill sites which were previously operational have now been shut down. Incinerators, which at one time were dangerous toxic factories, now produce significantly fewer emissions and even supply heat and electricity. In Europe today, over one third of "municipal waste" (household rubbish) is recycled already and this figure looks set to rise to 50% by 2020.

No matter how you look at the facts and the raw materials shift – one thing is fairly obvious - rubbish makes money. As primary raw materials are a finite source, secondary raw materials are shooting up in value, especially metals. So much so that theft is now becoming more common: media reports on gangs of thieves stealing sculptures from churches and tearing copper roof plating from buildings are on the rise. The latest recycling crime scene: Carl Hagenbeck's grave, where the old "Triest" Hagenbeck Zoo lion memorial, weighing 100 kg and over 100 years old, simply vanished. Stolen, because its bronze can be converted into cash so easily. The consequence: even scrapyards are as secure as a bank nowadays.

New logistics industries have sprung up to transport waste and recyclables in all directions and across all borders, where they can be made available as secondary raw materials for new products. This calls for a great deal of know-how and just-in-time logistics, as furnaces cannot run out of supplies and manufacturers need timely replenishment of lead, copper, PET and many other materials.

At international level, countless laws such as acts, rules and environmental regulations need to be considered. Recycling and environmental compliance have gone from being a local problem to a globally strategic challenge. Powerful IT systems must be programmed to facilitate the connection of every single product database and the linking of global compliance conditions. As insufficient compliance will mean a fine. But too much compliance costs money.

Even if the recycling wheel is turning faster and faster, this raw materials shift is far from over. Rising consumption and dwindling resources mean even more pressure in the future. Perhaps one day we will no longer pay for our domestic waste and might even be paid for it instead? The first sign: in many places, paper recycling bins are provided and emptied free of charge – a brave new recycled world. Who knows, maybe an old folk song will be brought back to life with new lyrics: “Give me rubbish, give me scrap. I can always find a use for it”…

CCR Logistics Systems AG
Reverse Logistics Group
Karl-Hammerschmidt-Str. 36
D 85609 Dornach
Tel +49 89 49049 100
Fax +49 89 49049 33 100
E-Mail: info@ccr-revlog.com

CCR develops customised take-back solutions that kick in at the end of the product life cycle. With the brands REBAT (batteries), RELECTRA (electronics), REPACK (packaging) and other solutions CCR is one of the most experienced reverse logistics providers. A close-knit European network of selected logistics and recycling partners ensures high flexibility to meet any customer's requirements. This is supported by various statutory reverse systems to meet regional regulatory requirements.