Germany at the top
Ok, maybe not the absolute top, but, according to the amount of garbage produced, we come in in fourth. Germanys annual waste production of 617 kilograms per capita (circa 2013), is surpassed in Europe only by Cyprus (624 kg), Luxembourg (653 kg) and Denmark (747 kg). Germans produce 136 kg more waste each year than the average European citizen and 213 kg of it, approx. one third, is pure packaging waste. Mail order companies and “Coffee to go” send their regards. Inhabitants of Kiel aren’t far for the worst producers of waste in Germany. In 2016 alone, The Müllverbrennung Kiel GmbH & Co. KG received 44.300 tonnes of residual waste from the ABK.
Separating waste correctly
Our waste is separated into glass, paper, organic, packaging, residual and special/hazardous waste. Pollutants are poisonous and dangerous! If there is no possibility to return an item elsewhere, e.g. in the case of batteries, items must be delivered to the designated waste collection points. This is free of charge for private individuals. Paper waste can be resold for the production of recycled paper, which, depending on quality, can sell for around 100 Euros/ton. For this reason, the paper container is favorable. Glass waste belongs to the corresponding containers, located at strategic points around each neighborhood. Organic waste can be processed relatively inexpensively and be used later in the production cycle, e.g. as compost. Yet no one should expect the ABK to make a fortune on this. The processing of biological waste still costs money and is paid for through our disposal fees. Additionally, the recycling of packaging waste from the yellow sack or bin is also paid for by us. These costs are already included when purchasing the product. Last but not least, the residual waste. This is burnt and thermally utilized. The energy contained is converted into the useful energies of electricity and heat, and secondary products are generated from the residual substances, which are fed back into the economic cycle. Despite elaborate cleaning and filtration systems used by the waste incineration company Kiel GmbH & Co. KG (MVK), which ensures all legal requirements are fulfilled, incineration leads to inevitable pollutants entering the environment. Only through a more deliberate approach to purchases and waste separation can pollutant emissions be further reduced.
The odd thing about the waste separation is, however, that many residents of Kiel do not seem to care. A study from 2012 showed that, in Kiel, the residual waste bin is filled up to 50% with food residues, kitchen garbage and organic waste. In contrast, in Lübeck 20kg more organic waste per person ends up in the brown bin and, in Neumünster, the amount of organic waste is twice that of Kiel. Considering this, it is therefore quite reasonable for the city of Kiel to, as planned, react to this grievance with a change in the fee amounts. Motto: Those who separate correctly, live cheaper.
What happens with the garbage?
- Special waste and harmful substances
For private households, It is accepted by the ABK free of charge and is disposed of according to each product, usually in special incineration plants.
- Yellow sack / yellow bin
It is currently collected by the company Remondis. In a sorting plant, what is recyclable, gets recycled and the non-recyclable residual materials are sorted out and sent to an energy recovery facility. There they are burned in order to generate electricity and heat.
It is collected by the ABK. The waste paper is sold to paper mills and then used to produce recycled paper. Paper can be reused up to six times.
- Organic waste
It is currently being fermented in a mechanical-biological waste treatment plant in Lübeck. The biogas produced is converted into electricity and heat and the fermentation residues are further processed and used, for example, in agriculture as a fertilizer. The problem here is that nitrates enter the soil through the fermentation residues and pollute the groundwater. Soil is also contaminated by plastic particles.
Old glass can be melted several times and used for the production of new glass products. This type of production loop is environmentally friendly and saves a great deal of energy and raw materials when the various glass products, such as bottles and window panes, reach the right disposal path at their end of life. To a lesser extent, glass and stone wool are also made from old glass and are used as insulating material.
- Residual waste and bulky waste
This waste is collected by the ABK and incinerated at the waste incineration plant of Kiel (MVK). With the energy gained in this process, electricity is produced for the company’s own supplies and surpluses are fed into the public grid. Furthermore, the generated heat supplies the district heating system with enough heat for approximately 17,000 households.
Environmentally safe burning
The MVK is one of the cleanest waste incineration plants in Germany and, in 2016, received the environmental award from the research and funding company Schleswig-Holsteinische Wirtschaft e.V.. The system is very energy efficient and works with an efficiency of at least 73%. Although the exhaust gases do contain substances such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride and mercury, the environmental impact of the MVK is negligible compared to automobile and ship traffic or even household fireplaces. In addition, the statutory emission values are far below mandated levels.
If the nearly 140,000 tons of residual waste burned by MVK annually were pressed into large garbage trucks and lined up, the result would be a line from Kiel’s castle to Seevetal, in the southern suburbs of Hamburg. This amount of waste creates real “rubbish mountains”, year after year and we are burdening our environment with the amount of waste generated through our patterns of consumption. Waste generated through consumption must be recycled, thermally utilized (burned) or deposited where possible.
Really though, there is only one good form of garbage – the one that doesn’t occur at all.
This starts with product design, construction of equipment, materials used and, of course, individual consumer behavior. To accomplish this, everyone needs to play their part; Politicians must provide appropriate framework conditions, industry should implement corresponding modular and durable products, i.e. through the renouncement of the use of low-cost capacitors in electronic products or composite materials for products and packaging and finally we, as customers, are responsible. Before any purchase, we should reflect whether the desired good is really needed; If we, perhaps, should take the sausage and cheese from the deli counter instead of those with plastic packaging or whether our clothes can be patched or our devices repaired. We do not always need something new.
The pollutant vehicle Kiel
The mobile pollutant disposal point operates at different locations in Kiel. You can find out where and when on their website. It should be noted, that pollutants have to be dispensed properly there. This means they must be kept upright, well-sealed and dry in their original packaging. The vehicle can handle a maximum of 20 kg; Pollutants may not be left at the stops.
Info box: For the production of paper cups alone, approximately 29,000 tons of paper are required in Germany every year. For their production, about 64,000 tons of wood are consumed. In other words, for the enjoyment of coffee on-the-go, approximately 43,000 trees have to be felled annually. Assuming that, in the fictional forest, there is one tree every four meters, the area required each year for the production of disposable cups alone would be more than five times the park at Forstbaumschule, provided there was only forest and no lawns.
Waste disposal in KielIf you are not sure where to bring your garbage, you should always seek advice. You can get advice and information here: ABK Consulting for private householdsMarion Voß ,Burkhard AbromeitPhone 0431 / 58 54 -177 Phone 0431 / 58 54 -231 Or at the Environmental Protection Agency:Holstenstraße 10824103 Kiel0431 / 901-2182 For the disposal of chemicals and pollutants:Waste management company Kiel – Pollutant collection office Kiel
24116 Kiel0431 / 5579-441