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German municipalities urged to keep hands off recyclables

Germany – The growing number of German municipalities claiming first rights on recyclables from households is continuing to have a dramatic impact on commercial recyclers, according to the German federal association for secondary raw materials and waste management (BVSE). Over the past two years, German scrap collectors and recyclers have seen their volumes decrease rapidly as a result, lamented BVSE’s managing director Eric Rehbock at last week’s Recycling Aktiv exhibition in Baden-Baden, Germany.

According to German recycling legislation introduced two years ago, municipalities have first rights on collecting and recycling household recyclables. Law-makers use the argument that revenues are required for funding the whole disposal system, but commercial collectors sometimes fail to prove legal reclamation.

The situation is endangering the survival of hundreds of private small and medium-sized businesses, according to Rehbock. ‘It irritates the scrap sector that local governments increasingly lay their hands on everything they can make money on, and take over well-functioning collecting and recycling structures,’ he said.

Rehbock admitted the situation was not new ‘but the impact has become more and more dramatic now that recyclers suffer from overcapacity’, he argued. ‘And instead of reaching out a helping hand, they overload us with new legislation and extra bureaucracy.’

Heiner Gröger, president of the confederation of German steel recyclers BDSV, called on the German government to increase controls on illegal exports of scrap from the country. According to Gröger, an estimated 1 million end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) leave Germany every year and some 8 million from the whole of the EU, entailing a total loss of some 12 million tonnes of scrap. ‘This illegal export of ELVs has to be stopped,’ he insisted in Baden-Baden. ‘Legislation is not the problem; defending this legislation, that’s the problem.’

Rehbock (right): German scrap sector ‘irritated’ by interference of local governments. 

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