Water and Waste Management in Hamburg and Berlin

For four weeks, the participants in an industry-specific group from the water and waste management industry in Russia and Azerbaijan visited a variety of – mainly municipal – enterprises in Hamburg and Berlin and learnt about new technologies. At a cooperation exchange in Berlin and business meetings throughout Germany, they established individual contacts to manufacturers of sorting and treatment plants, water pumps, containers for rubbish disposal, pelletising systems, etc. Just as in every MP training programme, they increased their competencies on Germany and cast aside a number of stereotype ideas about the country.

Hamburg / Berlin. For most of the participants, it was the first stay in Germany and a great technical and cultural discovery tour. For the Akademie International training centre, this industry-specific programme was an exciting opportunity to reflect, together with the participants, on the important driving forces and relationships in the respective industry and the special characteristics of German water and waste management and to analyse the differences as compared to Russia and Azerbaijan.

Just as in every industry-specific group, the participants not only wanted to get to know new environmental technologies and forms of management and to go into detail on technical aspects in the respective segments of the water and waste management industry; they were also very interested in learning how the entire system of water and waste management functions in Germany. The group tackled this complex task enthusiastically in numerous exciting and sometimes controversial discussions with specialists in companies, trainers and subject tutors during the seminar programme as well as among themselves throughout the four weeks of the Programme.

One of the most important deductions that the participants drew from the Programme was the insight on how comprehensively the state or the municipalities deal with the topics of the separation of rubbish, rubbish collection and rubbish disposal and how well organised waste management is in Germany. “The state is very committed and regulates the market in this area, which we find amazing.” At the same time, they also noticed the strong commitment and sense of responsibility of the general public concerning the separation and disposal of rubbish. “The Germans are prepared to give away things that are still in a good condition free of charge or even have to pay something for the disposal”, one of them said during the analysis of the visit to the Rondenbarg recycling centre, which belongs to Stadtreinigung Hamburg, the city’s municipal waste and recycling management company. With regard to new technologies, the visit to the innovative Biogas- und Kompostwerk Bützberg plant, which also belongs to Stadtreinigung Hamburg, was the highlight of the programme. The plant produces gas and high-quality compost from organic waste and green waste from Hamburg households. As one participant put it: “Something that is still a long way off for us is already reality in Germany.”

Water management was also a topic of much discussion. While the technologies applied for waste water disposal in some Russian plants are very similar to those in Germany, the participants were particularly interested to learn that the quality of tap water in Germany is so high that it can be drunk without being boiled or filtered beforehand. It was also new to them that the public in Germany is far better informed about the water quality.

The separation and disposal of rubbish is not only a question of economy but is closely connected to the Germans’ strong environmental awareness, their concern about the proper disposal of hazardous substances and the problem of disposing of the far too many packaging materials for everyday necessities. Many of the participants found it fascinating to see that the rich consumer society develops solutions to counteract the damage caused to the environment as a result of its way of life. At the same time, it became clear to them that it takes years and generations to develop “green” awareness in a society.

At the start, the question was put as to how the German government had managed to get people to separate their household rubbish so carefully. In the course of the four Programme weeks, the participants realised how deeply the subject of separating rubbish is rooted in the culture and history of Germany, and even influenced by geographical factors. Here the culture of social control plays a large role in compliance. The scarcity of natural resources and raw materials as well as of space where unsorted rubbish can be disposed of without any control also has a strong influence. The “green” movement and the individual inhabitant’s sense of responsibility for their surroundings, but also for the global environment, put the finishing touch on the topic of waste disposal.

No matter how dramatic it may sound, one participant put the group’s new practical insight in a nutshell: “We only have one planet – and we have to solve the environmental problems together.”

Julia Moritz
Akademie International, Hamburg
Akademie Intenational