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Germany’s so-called ‘energy turnaround’, i.e. to change its energy supply from fossils to renewables, is in full swing even if the process has been slowed down a little as a result of the new political constellation in Berlin following the last general election. The move towards wind power, photovoltaics and improving energy efficiency levels of buildings is progressing faster than originally planned. If this hugely important project is to be a true success, however, then the question of how to recycle this new environmental technology must also be taken into consideration right from the start.
Wind turbines also have a limited ‘shelf life’. The same is true for solar cells and the material used to insulate buildings. If a truly sustainable energy sector is to be created, then it must include the recycling and extensive re-use of the materials that make such an energy turnaround possible in the first place. REMONDIS is, therefore, calling for the creation of take-back systems targeted precisely at such materials so that sustainable processes can be set up to ensure such energy technology is returned to the economic cycle.
REMONDIS is carrying out tests to develop ways of recycling composite insulation boards.
Germany has not been slow to introduce take-back systems in the past. There are now take-back systems for waste electrical equipment, for batteries, for old industrial and commercial plastic packaging and there is even a take-back system for used photovoltaic modules, the latter being the first step ever taken to recycle renewable energy equipment. However, simply taking back a material is not enough. It is a long path before a commercially viable recycling method can be developed.
The pilot tests are being carried out at a plant in Mettmann to see how composite insulation boards can be separated
REMONDIS recently carried out a pilot test. As part of its research and development activities, the company has been working together with students at the University of Münster and carrying out practical tests to see whether the individual parts of composite insulation boards, which are being used more and more on buildings nowadays, really can be separated from each other and recycled. These tests are being held at R&R Rohstoffrückgewinnung und Recycling’s plant in Mettmann in North Rhine-Westphalia, a company partly owned by REMEX.
The results have been promising. The tests have shown that it is possible to separate the individual components of these boards without having to change the everyday operations of a construction waste sorting facility. Looking at the majority of the output, however, it has not yet reached the quality for materials recycling. Initial conclusions are that the components could be separated more cleanly from each other by changing the amount of time the material spends in the mechanical sections of the plant or storage areas or by using other types of mechanical processes. The next tests to be carried out by the University of Mu?nster will shed further light on this issue.