IFAT | What impetus do you expect from the national circular economy strategy contained in the coalition agreement of the new German government?
Hasenkamp | The national recycling strategy will significantly strengthen the measures for effective waste avoidance and recovery of valuable resources through citizen-oriented separation systems, which have been known for many years but have so far only been rudimentarily successful. Local authorities and the business community are now called upon to work together to achieve the goals of a sustainable economy. Municipalities use their function as the key to resources in households and commercial enterprises to optimize the quality and quantity of recyclables collection. Commerce and retail ensure intelligent reusable systems, recycling-friendly products and the reuse of secondary raw materials in their products. In many municipalities, this lays the foundations for successfully implementing urgently needed zero-waste strategies together with all stakeholders.
IFAT | What are currently the biggest challenges for your member companies?
Specht | Besides protecting against heavy rainfall events and dealing with prolonged periods of drought, demographic change also presents us with immense tasks: How do we maintain safe and affordable drinking water and sewage disposal in our region when fewer and fewer people live here? On top of the quantity issue, there is the quality issue, because our water resources are increasingly exposed to stresses. Policymakers must answer the question of what model we rely on to protect resources for drinking water supplies. Will these be more and more technical solutions, which would structurally change water management and place a financial burden on citizens? Or do we reinforce the precautionary and polluter pays principles so that we set incentives and regulations to better protect our water resources? In our view, the latter is the right way to go. Beyond a fair share of the costs, for example those of pesticide manufacturers, in the case of necessary additional purification services at wastewater treatment plants, the priority is to ensure that substances are not put on the market in the first place or are put on the market to a much lesser extent.
Hasenkamp | With the impacts of climate change becoming increasingly evident locally, municipal enterprises are challenged to develop resilient and sustainable approaches to their critical infrastructure services. Which means promoting technical solutions such as the use of alternative drive systems and energy supply systems. Moreover, all technical and economic solutions for generating CO2-neutral energy from waste need to be exploited, and sufficient recycling and treatment capacities must be ensured for a population that is growing in many cities. And last but not least, there is a need to tackle the increasingly urgent tasks of recruiting and retaining young talent and skilled workers in public-sector companies.
IFAT | What importance do you attach to IFAT Munich 2022?
Specht | For good reason, the VKU has long been a conceptual IFAT partner. Where else but in Munich do we get to talk to so many visitors from Germany and abroad about how cities and regions can function better in the future in the face of climate and demographic change?
Hasenkamp | IFAT Munich 2022 will allow the much-needed exchange between our companies and our partners in the industry about the latest technical developments and products. This is where the foreseeably high need for investment in sustainable plant and vehicle technology can be discussed.