The top tier of waste management – this is how the environmental sector refers to the recycling and disposal of hazardous waste. And not without reason. This kind of recycling requires the highest levels of expertise, extensive experience and specialist infrastructure. As a one stop service provider, Saubermacher took on hazardous waste disposal at an early stage, introducing the first mobile collection of hazardous waste as early as 1983, for instance. At the same time, the environmental pioneer has helped shape eco standards in Austria and its neighbouring countries and has thus also set new benchmarks for waste recycling. The main focus here was and is the company’s guiding principle, including for hazardous waste: zero waste, i.e. closing material cycles as far as possible. Today, the environmental pioneer processes around 300,000 tonnes of hazardous waste per year across the company group.
Harmful to the environment and hazardous to health
Hazardous waste damages the environment and is hazardous to health, and is therefore subject to special monitoring. Austria produces a total of 1.3m tonnes of hazardous waste per year. The classification of waste as hazardous is regulated by the Austrian Waste Management Act. The bulk of such material is generated by industry and business in the form of acids, mordants, alkalis, solvents and slurry. Saubermacher provides specially trained Solution Managers to assist its customers with the often highly complex issues associated with disposal. They are increasingly getting involved as early as the product design and manufacturing stage.
But hazardous waste is also to be found in private homes, for instance insecticides, lithium ion batteries, lead batteries, cooling and air conditioning devices, fluorescent lighting, out of date medicines or electronic waste. In addition to providing mobile collection services, Saubermacher advises local refuse collection centres on all waste disposal issues.
There is a general trend towards increased and increasingly complex amounts of hazardous waste. Legislative changes, such as the new definition of the HP 14 Ecotoxic Hazardous Property, are also leading to further requirements. This complex issue requires a great deal of expertise, even to ensure that waste is correctly classified under waste and chemicals legislation.
Safe recycling to the highest standards
There is a wide variety of hazardous waste. At the same time, the waste is increasing in complexity and small quantities of a wide range of qualities are increasingly being generated. So it is particularly important that temporary storage facilities and recycling centres are available to collect these materials. Saubermacher has a close network of facilities and is therefore able to provide its customers with the highest standards of security for waste disposal.
Its largest hazardous waste site is located in Premstätten, south of Graz, which processes around 60,000 tonnes of hazardous materials per year across 45,000 square metres. This high-tech recycling centre consists of three key areas: a vehicle workshop waste splitting plant, a physical and biological treatment plant and the disassembling and processing of electrical appliances and monitors.
Alongside the Premstätten site, Saubermacher brought its new chemical and physical treatment plant for liquid waste on stream in 2018, in Trofaiach in Styria. The facility processes 25,000 tonnes of waste per year and converts hazardous liquids such as acids, alkalis and oil/water mixtures into clean water. Residues such as waste oil and oil emulsions can in turn be used as substitute fuel by the cement industry.
Saubermacher’s new high-tech lithium ion battery recycling plant in the German city of Bremerhaven also underlines the company’s zero waste vision. With a capacity of 10,000 tonnes per year, its German subsidiary REDUX Recycling GmbH handles all types of lithium ion batteries and achieves recycling rates that overshoot legal targets by up to 40 %.
Saubermacher opened a new refrigerator recycling plant in the Czech Republic in late summer 2018. The site in Havlickuv Brod, near Prague, processes around 170,000 refrigerators a year. The primary task of demanufacturing is to identify all components containing harmful CFCs and dispose of them correctly. At the same time, however, Saubermacher aims to extract as many secondary raw materials as possible, and with a rate of 96 % it is achieving almost total success.
Lots of expertise, years of experience and ongoing education and training
Austria is a leader in environmental technology and environmental protection. It has strict regulations relating to the transport, storage and recycling of hazardous waste, and the disposal of these problematic materials consequently requires extensive specialist knowledge and a great deal of experience as well as the appropriate infrastructure. In this context, Saubermacher draws on experienced professionals and its ongoing education and training programme provided amongst other places by the Saubermacher Academy. Sites work together cross sectorally, for example to ensure the optimal recycling of emerging hazardous materials. Sales Managers work with customers to understand their “waste problem” and offer specialist advice. Solution Managers provide solutions support and are therefore an important interface between internal departments. Material Flow Managers direct waste to the appropriate recycling lines. Dispatchers and ADR drivers ensure that waste is transported correctly, and transfer and production workers are responsible for ensuring seamless analysis, identification and handling of waste.
Incorrect disposal of hazardous waste destroys the habitats of plants, animals and human beings, and has the potential to cause environmental damage on a global scale. In addition, it wastes valuable secondary raw materials. This is why it is essential to have and comply with legal frameworks, and to have specialist personnel and infrastructure such as Saubermacher’s high tech plants and expert staff, if we want to have a future worth living in.