If Peter Kurth has his way, the gas crisis could be solved, at least to a small extent, right on your doorstep: with the organic waste bin that we hope will be there.
The fact that it is not available in some cities in Germany, despite a law that has been in force for a long time, annoys the President of the Waste Management Association BDE. "It's been mandatory since 2015, but in many places it's just not done." That would be so important right now, says Kurth. One percent of German gas requirements are currently covered by biogas. "With well-used organic bins everywhere in Germany, we could get to two percent."
"Organic waste still often ends up in the residual waste"
With a view to winter, when a gas shortage could lead to supply restrictions in the industry and jobs would then be endangered, Kurth's proposal seems sensible and overdue. One percentage point more - "that would be a further step towards overcoming the problem and becoming less dependent on energy imports," he says. Environmentalists agree. "Organic waste still often ends up in the residual waste," says Thomas Fischer from the German Environmental Aid. 39 percent of the residual waste in this country is organic waste. Industry representative Kurth and environmentalist Fischer are in favor of the states putting pressure on the municipalities to set up more organic bins.
However, the matter is not simple. Because in order to meet the legal requirements, brown bins are not absolutely necessary. There are also collection points where citizens can take the organic waste. This satisfies the requirements of the Closed Substance Cycle Act. Examples are Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) and Regensburg (Bavaria), where there are bring systems. Saalfeld-Rudolstadt (Thuringia) plans to introduce it in early 2023.
There is sharp criticism of the bring systems. Because the desire to drive a fermenting mass across the city should be low. That is not consumer-friendly and the effort is too high, complains Andreas Habel from the medium-sized waste management association bvse. Most of the organic waste ends up in the residual waste bin and valuable secondary raw materials end up in the waste incineration plant. "This approach has nothing to do with the circular economy."
Municipal organization points to disadvantage
The German District Association considers an increase in the amount of biowaste to be "in principle desirable". Most counties would have the receptacles. Where this is not the case, the main reason is that the households there mostly compost their organic waste themselves in the gardens. The municipal organization points out a disadvantage: the installation of brown bins would have to be refinanced through waste fees, which would be met with incomprehension and would be uneconomical due to the relatively small quantities.
Some districts are currently taking other paths. The southern Brandenburg Waste Management Association, which operates in Teltow-Fläming in Brandenburg, relies on a system in which kitchen waste remains in the residual waste and is dried, shredded and sorted together with it. "The result is a high-quality substitute fuel that we use in a lignite-fired power plant for co-combustion," says association chairman Holger Riesner.
"Thanks to this substitute fuel, the power plant needs less coal, so less CO2 is produced." In terms of CO2 savings, the process serves to protect people and the environment in terms of the Closed Substance Cycle Act, just as well as a fermentation plant, says Riesner. He also points out that the organic waste bin system also has weaknesses. In Germany, for example, ecological waste often ends up in simple composting plants, where the gases escape unused into the environment. Efficient fermentation plants are needed, of which there are far too few.
There are also no bio bins in Schweinfurt (Bavaria). A city spokeswoman says that an investigation has been carried out, according to which the collection of garden waste (green waste) and the "thermal recycling" - i.e. incineration - of residual waste including organic waste has a more favorable effect on the greenhouse effect and other problems than the use of a bio bin. The high proportion of compost in private gardens is also good for the soil.
In Bremerhaven you will also look in vain for organic waste bins. A spokesman justifies the waiver of these containers with the fact that there is no waste treatment plant in the immediate vicinity. A contract for the recycling of Bremerhaven's organic waste would have to be put out to tender throughout Europe. The spokesman says, shaking his head, that the winner of the tender would have to be chosen even if he was in the distant Osnabrück area. However, there are two green waste collection points in the city.
There are also no bio bins in Altötting in Bavaria. A spokesman for the district points out that "a lot of plastic has been shown to end up in organic waste bins, which after fermentation in biogas plants ends up in the form of microplastics on fields and thus in the food chain". In the district, there are only eight kilograms of kitchen waste per person per year in residual waste. "To want to collect these residues with your own organic waste bin, which has to be emptied every 14 days by diesel-powered trucks, makes neither ecological nor economic sense from our point of view." If that were to happen, the garbage fees would double.
Fears of microplastics a "bogus argument"
Biobin advocate Kurth from the BDE industry association considers the microplastic fears to be a "bogus argument". On the one hand, it is assumed that citizens are not able to separate their waste properly. And on the other hand, waste advice is one of the tasks of the districts and municipalities.
The comments from the cities and districts make it clear that there will probably be no brown bins on the doorstep in the future either. The wish of the disposal industry for more gas from organic waste will probably be difficult to fulfill.