Resources instead of waste

By Christian BlockMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Recycling yards are to become resource centres. That is what the planned reform of waste legislation envisages. But municipal autonomy and political trench warfare risk thwarting the government's ambitions. At the same time, the number of re-use initiatives is growing.

Patrick de la Hamette is optimistic. In the coming months, the president and co-founder of Digital Inclusion finally expects the first shipment of used laptops through the new project. The non-profit organisation, which has grown over the years to a considerable number of 16 employees (together eleven full-time equivalents), has already distributed 3,500 computers to people who cannot afford them, including many asylum seekers and Revis recipients, since its foundation in 2016. In this way, the association has allowed them to participate in digital life through donations. Be it to download homework exercises, write job applications or make a Covid vaccination appointment.

In 2019, the non-profit association distributed between 600 and 650 computers and laptops to people. Last year, largely due to the sudden switch to home-schooling, there were around 750 PCs as well as 175 smartphones.

The new project in question is called Social ReUse and is based on an initiative by Ecotrel. Ecotrel is a non-profit association founded by manufacturers and importers of electrical and electronic equipment with the aim of taking over their legal obligations with regard to the disposal of discarded electrical equipment. The aim of the Social ReUse project, meanwhile, is to separately collect household appliances and computers that are still in working order at certain recycling centres, to check them and to bring them back into a new cycle of use via non-profit organisations.

But for Digital Inclusion, it has been a test of patience. About a year and a half ago, a convention was signed with the Oeko-Center Hesper. And that was two years after a first attempt to sign it had fallen through. The reason was alleged irregularities claimed by Ecotrel regarding the permits of Digital Inclusion. In the meantime, the convention with this and three other recycling centres is in place. However, so far there has been nothing to collect. The interview was conducted in mid-October.

It is an example that shows: The government's plans to promote recycling, as well as waste reduction in general, risk making slow progress for very different reasons. Experience teaches: in the so-called land of short distances, it often takes a very long time to get where you want to go.

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