„We can only be successful with the right partners.“
In an interview with SAB, REMONDIS’ managing director of the recycling division Christoph Bildstein, who is known to be close to nature and down to earth, talks about sustainability, the challenges of the green deal and the importance of reliable partners.
Christoph Bildstein (58), born in Kempen / Niederrhein. Got his diploma as an agricultural engineer at the University of Bonn. He has been with the Rethmann Group for 22 years (1999) and been a member of the management team at Rhenus Recycling and managing director of REMONDIS Recycling GmbH & Co. KG since 2003.
REMONDIS is one of the world’s largest service providers for recycling, service and water. They have around 900 locations on 4 continents, and their over 30,000 employees work for more than 30 million citizens and many thousands of companies. At the highest level. On behalf of the future.
The Area of Responsibility
Christoph Bildstein is responsible for the business area of glass recycling, with 13 locations in Germany, Belgium and Poland, as well as the operation of the five counting centres. Around 1.6 million tons of glass are processed annually in the facilities, and around 500 million one-way deposit containers are counted.
The SAB Scope of Services
SAB has been an established supplier and partner of REMONDIS for many years. They have delivered rotary tumble dryers for drying glass, various special machines, screw compressors and have acted as a general contractor for equipping new container counting centres.
Mr. Bildstein, your company, with you as a member of the management team, writes new success stories every year. What are your expectations for the next few years?
Christoph Bildstein: In the glass recycling business area, we want to continue our international growth of recent years and further expand our position as the European market leader. We see ourselves as a partner to the glass industry, which is reflected, among other things, in joint activities such as the current joint venture with Verallia, a global player in the production of glass packaging.
Do you also see potential for expansion in the area of deposit clearing?
Christoph Bildstein: Yes, we observe and monitor the developments in the field of one-way deposits in many European countries, and want to use our expertise to establish our services of clearing, operating counting centres and recycling packaging there. Sustainable growth only works with reliable and strong-willed employees – at all levels. And here, unfortunately, we are sometimes shown our limits.
The achievement of ambitious climate targets has been on everyone’s lips again, and not just since Joe Biden’s election – the European Union has never lost sight of them. What challenges will your company and the industry in general face in the next few years in order to achieve the requirements and goals?
Christoph Bildstein: The requirements of European and national politics with catchphrases such as “Green Deal” or “Close the Loop” are driven by the realisation that we cannot continue “doing business” in the way we have been for almost 150 years.
New products must be manufactured using secondary raw materials in a way that conserves resources when primary raw material deposits are in some cases scarce. Even when designing new products, greater care must be taken to ensure that they are also recyclable.
We at REMONDIS have been living this for almost forty years. And we have been carrying this task for many years in our “On behalf of the future” logo. That is why we are working on transforming from a waste management industry with the appendix recycling, to production plants for recycling raw materials with a reduction in energy consumption during our processes – this in the sense of a really sustainable circular economy while achieving economic goals.
Broken down to your business areas, that means …
Christoph Bildstein: In our glass recycling plants, we must continue to work on optimising the energy consumption of large consumers, such as compressed air production and drying systems with gentle treatment of the glass shards. SAB’s expertise helps us with material handling in drum dryers or with heat recovery in our systems.
In addition, the waste flows must be reduced and the proportion of recyclable glass volumes increased – taking into account the technical requirements of the glass industry. To a larger extent, this is only possible if the fine particles are similar in shape and consistency to the recycled broken glass. Here, too, we are working very cooperatively and closely with SAB on new developments and innovations, in which we have high expectations for the future.
“SAB does not think and manufacture individual components such as dryers or screw compressors, but takes into account the entire, complex processes.”
For the destruction and compression of PET bottles and beverage cans, we are using more and more innovative compactors from SAB – with a reduction in energy consumption of more than 40% compared to previously used systems.
SAB does not think and manufacture individual components such as dryers or screw compressors, but takes into account the entire, complex processes in the production systems and combines the disciplines of mechanics, statics, thermodynamics and control technology at the highest level.
How do you see the development in packaging recycling, can producers be made more responsible for reducing it?
Christoph Bildstein: In Germany and most European countries in the EU, packaging recycling is already based on the principle of producer responsibility. The resulting methodology within the framework of the dual systems leads to enormous cost pressure exerted by the big players – usually the big food retailers.
While fully appreciating competition and keeping an eye on consumer prices: Producer responsibility does not end with the so-called release from dual systems. A sustainable circular economy requires a healthy economic basis that enables innovative investments.
The corona crisis has had a strong to very strong impact on almost all areas of life in our society.
What challenges did you face with your company?
Christoph Bildstein: Due to the restrictions on public life, gastronomy and tourism, consumer habits have changed worldwide with the trend towards more home consumption. As a result, the amount of waste glass collected in Germany has increased by up to 15% compared to 2019. The proportion of white preserving jars is increasing disproportionately. Green bottles were used less and then collected in Germany and around the world.
Jägermeister at the chalet or on the beach in Mallorca or Florida fell just as bad as Beck’s beer or Heineken. This is accompanied by changes in the type and color of production in the glass industry. Glass factories, in which, for example, green beer bottles were predominantly produced up to now, are now producing white preserving jars. And when demand picks up again, green smoothie bottles overnight.
As a supplier, in the future, we must be able to react more flexibly here as much as possible. In other words: get colours that are suddenly needed. And store colours that are not in demand at times. There were and still are major external and internal logistical challenges to be mastered.
Mr. Bildstein, please let me ask you a final question.
“Styrian blood is not raspberry juice” is a popular phrase from Styria. It alludes to the particular stubbornness, independence and relentlessness that the Styrian population is sometimes said to be. Can you confirm this?
Christoph Bildstein: (Laughs) I didn’t know this saying before. But Styrian blood could also be a mixture of pumpkin seed oil and Schilcher. No, I mainly recognise the positive sides of the Styrians, who are important for innovation:
- they think up new ideas with their stubbornness,
- develop them further through their independence,
- and do not give up with the help of their relentlessness.
All of this combined with flexibility and competence at a very high level characterise technology partners such as SAB, with whom we can further develop our business.