The port site in Kehl is putting on a good show: clear blue skies and sparkling water dominate the picture along the quay walls. The rays of the sun were already making themselves felt on people’s skin in the early morning and provided for a pleasant summer feeling. France is located very close by, on the other side of the River Rhine – and its cosmopolitan attitude is within easy reach; a white beach is all that is missing for that perfect holiday vibe. But there is absolutely no sign of that anywhere around here. Instead, huge mounds of earth, building waste and crumbled asphalt are contained in a large building.
A glimpse inside the spacious warehouse at the new special facility.
The materials that are stored here are waste substances that typically occur at building sites – for example, excavated soil, asphalt and building waste, which can no longer be used at the local site. The materials have to be processed and the individual elements are then transported to the place where they will be used at a later date; this means that the valuable materials are not lost and can be used again. Sophisticated logistics services and special experience in the field of waste and disposal management are necessary to ensure that this all functions properly.
The Federal State of Baden-Württemberg strengthened its laws and regulations regarding protection of the natural surroundings a few years ago. They aim to force companies to create as little dust as possible when working with waste and therefore prevent any contamination of the environment and the River Rhine. This means that working processes have to be organised in such a way that they comply with the regulations in the German Emissions Control Act and the German Industrial Emissions Directive.
This is the reason why the logistics specialist, Rhenus Port Logistics Rhein-Neckar, and the Geiger Corporate Group, which is active in the construction sector, decided as early as 2014 to build a joint waste handling and treatment centre that complies with the latest regulations. Rhenus has been working at the Port of Kehl since 2012 and operates its own terminal there. In the end, it took seven years for the regional council in Freiburg to complete the extensive approval procedure in line with the Recycling Management Act and the German Emissions Control Act; as a result, it wasn’t possible to start the building work until the summer of 2021. The facility was completed at the end of the year after building work lasting six months and it has been operating since January 2022.
The area where the new waste handling and treatment facility was to be constructed, next to the Port of Kehl. Everything was still wasteland and desolate, but this would soon change.
The work to construct the new facility began in the summer of 2021. The original soil had to be broken up and removed so that there was space for the foundations for the new warehouse building at ground level.
The next stage involved digging a pit into which the foundations for the walls could be poured. The work progressed well despite the bad weather.
The first steel mesh sheets and the structures for the walls were put in place. It was already possible to imagine how large the new facility would be at a later stage.
Slowly but surely, the building took shape. The first walls were completed and it was not long before the remaining parts of the building were finished.
The building was given a special floor surface and a semi-circular roof in the autumn of 2021; the roof is supported by a steel construction. The separating walls to differentiate between the individual waste aggregate materials at a later stage were also installed.
The building, which measures 6,000 square metres, was completed next to the Port of Kehl after building work lasting about six months. All that was missing was the waste so that operations could start as quickly as possible.
‘We’ve opened one of the most modern waste handling and treatment centres with trimodal transport operations in Germany. We’re using the latest technology and have become a pioneer in this field. This will be the benchmark for the future,’ says Uwe Veith, the Managing Director of Rhenus Port Logistics Rhein-Neckar. With investments totalling more than EUR 5 million and the latest technical equipment, the facility meets the highest current standards and it is therefore (almost) unique in Germany. It is able to process up to 300 tonnes per hour; as a result, the centre can handle as much as 250,000 tonnes of material every year.
To ensure that the waste handling and waste treatment processes run smoothly, Rhenus Port Logistics Rhein-Neckar is responsible for the logistics within the facility as well as all the transshipment and waterborne services for the Geiger Corporate Group; the latter is the sole operator of the plant and is responsible for the incoming and outgoing waste. Geiger is also in charge of the waste treatment and the extensive documentation, which is required because of the complicated approval situation – and it has to regularly take samples.
The waste, which has been processed at the facility at the Port of Kehl since January 2022 – that is to say, sifted, broken up and homogenised – comes from the Upper Rhine region, which stretches from Basel in Switzerland as far as Bingen in Germany. Trucks transport the waste from the individual building sites to the facility in Kehl. When the vehicles arrive at the port site, the consignment is weighed and is registered in the system before it is unloaded at the relevant point in the building. The unloaded waste is then sifted; samples are taken from the sifted elements and are analysed in order to discover any hazardous substances which could cause contamination. When leaving the warehouse building, the trucks’ tyres are washed so that any grains of dust or particles stuck to the vehicles’ tyres cannot make their way outside.
Hazardous waste such as asphalt containing tar is stored in a special area in the building. (Photo: Christoph Breithaupt/vor-ort-foto.de)
The warehouse building, which measures about 6,000 square metres, is divided into two sections: the non-hazardous waste is stored on one side and the hazardous waste in a separate area next to it. Even if the word ‘hazardous’ suggests that chemical, toxic or explosive materials might possibly be stored here, this is not the case.
The hazardous waste includes, for example, materials that are contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as asphalt containing tar – also known as ‘black mass’. The closer you get to the piles of aggregate materials with the fragmented asphalt, the more you notice the smell given off by the material. However, if you walk on a few metres, you cannot smell it any longer.
The photo shows the individual layers that make up the asphalt. The materials are separated from each other during the ongoing work stages. Pebble stones are a popular building material, particularly in the Netherlands.
If you walk round the facility, it is clear that the area for non-hazardous waste is much larger than the storage area for hazardous waste. 80 per cent of the materials handled in the building are non-hazardous – and only 20 per cent are hazardous. An air curtain similar to what you find at the entrance to a department store ensures that no particles escape from the area with the hazardous waste and make their way into the other part of the centre.
After the material has arrived at the port site in Kehl by truck, a wheel loader transports the unloaded waste to a wide-meshed grate, where it is sifted. Large stones are left behind and are removed. As a result, they cannot cause any damage when the material is moved later on. When the material is then placed on an enclosed conveyor belt, it once again passes over a grate. An extraction unit is incorporated above the grate to ensure that no dust can escape during the procedure. It works rather like an extractor hood in a kitchen and ensures that no particles can spread within the area in an uncontrolled manner.
The waste then lands on a conveyor belt with the help of a chute. It is transported from there through cascade-like segments along the enclosed conveyor belt. The latter is completely covered and has a ventilation system that permanently sucks away air to prevent any dust from escaping. As the conveyor belt is only swung over the water when it is not carrying any material, no polluting substances can escape into the environment or make their way into the water. At the end, the waste then is either placed on board inland waterway vessels or in railway wagons.
The view of the extraction unit from below.
Photo: Christoph Breithaupt/vor-ort-foto.de
Rhenus and the Geiger Corporate Group focus on using inland waterway vessels for fairly long transport routes; each of them can move 3,000 – 3,500 tonnes of waste and therefore prevent 140 shipments by truck. The vessels transport the material along the river Rhine towards North Rhine-Westphalia (in Germany) and to the Netherlands, where it can be used again for other building projects. “Gravel is a very popular raw material in the Netherlands, for example, because there are very few natural sources of this substance in the country. This provides us with a goods sales market and guarantees a certain number of transport operations on the river,” says Martin Haberstock from the Geiger Corporate Group. Trucks continue to be used for short routes, if waste has to be transported to destinations close to the waste handling and treatment facility.
Rhenus Logistics and the Geiger Corporate Group have signed a 10-year contract for the new centre. ‘We believe that there’ll be many other facilities of this kind in Germany and Europe ten or twenty years from now,’ says Christof Blesch from Rhenus Port Logistics Rhein-Neckar.
Discover more about handling and storage as well as treating waste and materials for recycling at the port.
Inland waterway vessels: a low-cost and environmentally-friendly means of transport.
You can find an interesting article about the history and development of inland waterway shipping in our blog.
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