October 25, 2007 | General

Resources In Compost Products (Germany)

BioCycle October 2007, Vol. 48, No. 10, p. 62
The history and current activities of a company that markets quality compost confirm value and continuing impact on German agriculture and horticulture.

BASED in Lünen, Germany, the Remondis Ag & Co. KG is one of the world’s largest privately run water and environmental services companies. Main business areas are recycling and production, logistics systems and waste treatment technology and facilities, along with public/private partnerships. Its workforce of around 18,600 persons has subsidiaries in 20 European countries as well as in China, Japan, Taiwan and Australia.
Energy production is growing in importance at Remondis, which supplies high calorific fuels to substitute for fossil fuels. Reterra is a specialized service company belonging to the Remondis group that treats organic waste, produces and markets compost products.
The family business started in 1934 when Josef Rethmann Sr. purchased a small hauling operation with its four horses and five carts in Selm, Germany. In 1948, the company began its refuse collection activities and gradually expanded into different environmental service sectors. In early 2002, Rethmann relocated its headquarters from Selm to Lünen.
Today, the Lippe Plant in Lünen processes a wide range of municipal, commercial and industrial wastes – a total of 1.5 million tons a year, generating many products on its 250-hectares. There is also a composting plant in Lünen that can process up to 58,000 tons of biowaste and green waste a year, along with a site for soils and substrate with an annual capacity of 100,000 tons.
At the beginning of 2005, the company was renamed Remondis. Its aim is to consistently cover the waste management process from logistics, sorting, pretreatment and processing to marketing high-quality secondary raw materials. The volume is achieved by treating about 1.3 million tons of separately collected materials in 52 composting plants across the country.
Technology and capacities of the individual biowaste/green waste composting plants range from 6,500 tons to approximately 84,000 tons of input material each year. Green waste consists of organic residue collected from gardens and parks, while biowaste is the separately collected organic fractions of municipal solid waste. At present, there are six different processing techniques in use at the 52 operating plants: Bricolare system (5 sites); Enclosed windrow composting (4 sites); Enclosed raw composting (3 sites); Enclosed tunnel composting (6 sites); Box/container composting (9 sites); Open windrow composting (20 sites); and Digestion Plants (5 sites).
Reterra Service Ltd. – located in Erftstadt, Germany – produces about 230,000 tons of compost products, more than one-third of the total of the Remondis group. By researching recycling methods, marketable products are generated that are branded as Reterra for compost, Repaper for paper, Planolen/ Planomid for plastics, and Reba for metals and scrap.
Reterra is made at all German Remondis locations. It has been awarded the RAL-quality assurance label for fresh, matured and substrate compost.
Reterra started composting using an open windrow system for garden and park waste only – primarily on landfill sites. In the early 1980s, the first composting plants were put into operation to treat separately collected organic household waste. That includes a uniform, standardized quality, specific information about nutrients, pH value, salt content, stability, etc. The Quality Assurance Group carries out a precise product identification recommending areas of application.
Benefits of compost use are different and depend on the end users: agriculture, landscaping, horticulture, hobby gardening, biofilter technology, etc. Farmers currently get information about the humus and carbon content of compost to work out the specific humus balance of their crop rotation and tillage intensity.
Customers are provided with product sheets containing details about every compost product – as well as downloads of the company website –
Concerning discussions about climate change, compost material must be seen as a natural and renewable carbon source that stores carbon in the humus fraction of soil. As far as habitats with low soil humus levels, compost can be used to fight increasing water deficiency problems. Similarly, compost use can protect against soil erosion. A further important factor is that energy can be saved by using compost instead of mineral fertilizers -therefore, composts make a positive contribution to minimizing CO2 emissions.
Last year, Reterra Services supplied the market with approximately 620,000 tons of compost and other organic fertilizers. About 64 percent was sold as an organic fertilizer or soil improver to agriculture. While the sole value of nutrients and lime in compost is about 4 to 6 euros per ton, farmers only pay about 1.5 to 3 euros per ton delivered to the field. The conclusion is that compost is a good value, an effective and sustainable multifunctional fertilizer and soil improver. – J.G.

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