Merzig/Mettlach, 17. July 2018
The municipal reverse ConsumPtion centre in Mettlach has been awarded the international RAL quality mark ‘Reverse Consumption’. It is the first community recycling facility in Germany, and one of the first three in Europe, to be recognized in this way. The new RAL quality mark was announced by the RAL Quality Assurance Association for Reverse Consumption [RAL Gütegemeinschaft Rückkonsum e.V.] in September 2017. Since then, three reverse consumption centres have been certified with the pioneering RAL quality mark GZ 950 ‘Reverse Consumption’ – and one of these is the facility in Mettlach. The three centres – one in Germany, one in Luxembourg and one in Sweden – have been awarded the quality mark for the high standard of their RAL-audited take-back schemes for end-of-use products.
Mettlach’s municipal reverse consumption centre
The municipal reverse consumption centre (RPC) in Mettlach has for several years been providing waste management and recycling services to private households within its catchment area. The RPC not only serves as a modern collection centre for end-of-use products, but also provides information and advisory services on waste management and waste prevention, while also acting as a permanent reception site for hazardous waste (within Luxembourg’s ‘SuperDrecksKëscht®’ scheme), and operating an attractive second-hand shop for reusable products. Mettlach’s reverse consumption centre is the brainchild of local environmental pioneer Hans-Peter Walter, who was able to contribute his extensive knowledge of and experience in recycling centres during the planning and construction of the RPC. And word of the high-quality services provided at the Mettlach RPC has now spread well beyond the borders of Saarland. In recognition of its positive contribution to environmental protection, the municipal RPC in Mettlach was awarded the RAL quality mark GZ 950 ‘Reverse Consumption’, which was presented at a ceremony held on June 28th, 2018.
The path to the ‘circular economy’
Local authorities and private companies that operate sustainable take-back schemes that comply with the objectives of a circular economy model can now apply to have their services recognized with the award of the new RAL quality mark GZ 950. The RAL quality mark aims to stimulate new approaches to the locally organized collection, recycling and reuse of consumer products and materials by focusing on user-friendliness, clean and well-organized sites and by mirroring the service criteria that apply in the consumer retail sector. The ‘Reverse Consumption’ quality mark awarded by RAL represents a significant step in the transition from older conventional waste management structures to a modern reverse consumption strategy that requires the systematic reintroduction of end-of-use (EOU) products into the circular economy.
The RAL GZ 950 Quality Assurance and Test Specifications – A well-respected auditing regime
To be awarded the RAL ‘Reverse Consumption’ quality mark, a reverse consumption centre has to undergo rigorous quality auditing on the basis of the GZ 950 Quality Assurance and Test Specifications that RAL published in 2017. The quality assurance association’s auditors recently conducted thorough inspections of three reverse consumption centres and submitted their reports to the association’s Quality Committee whose members decide on whether to award the RAL quality mark. The RPC in Mettlach succeeded in meeting RAL’s strict quality requirements on its first attempt so that the Quality Committee was able to award the sought-after ‘Reverse Consumption’ quality mark without requiring a remedial audit.
From ‘waste’ to ‘product’
Prior to the presentation, Robert Leven, Chairman of the Board at the RAL Quality Assurance Association ‘Reverse Consumption’ said: ‘The Mettlach reverse consumption centre has shown that the term “waste” is no longer associated with words like “trash”, “rubbish” or “junk”. The local population living in the catchment area of the RPC identify with and make use of the modern local resource management services being provided in a way that helps to promote a sustainable circular economy. That’s why we now try to avoid using the term “waste” as far as possible, and prefer to talk about “end-of-use products”, and why we favour the expression “reverse consumption” rather than “waste disposal”.’
This is where the new RAL quality mark ‘Reverse Consumption’ comes into play, as it contains a range of requirements that RPCs must satisfy, including aspects such as the layout and appearance of the facilities. To be awarded the ‘Reverse Consumption’ quality mark, the RPC operator must satisfy the requirements in the Quality Assurance and Test Specifications, which set out the underlying testing and monitoring scheme and describe the targets that need to be reached in order to implement a sustainable circular economy.
The RAL GZ 950 Quality Assurance and Test Specifications contain all of the measures necessary to ensure the reintroduction of EOU products back into the circular economy supply chains, covering the initial reception of the EOU products, their safe storage and their onward transport for reuse, material recycling or recovery.
A key part of the strategy is the waste prevention advice provided. The information and advisory services are designed to stimulate the purchase of sustainable and environmentally friendly products, not just to members of the public bringing end-of-use products to a reverse consumption centre, but to everyone living within the centre’s catchment area. If the reverse consumption concept is to become established more widely, the customer communication and advisory services provided will have to mirror the sort of advertising and promotional campaigns that manufacturers and retailers use to drive product consumption. The communications strategy for a reverse consumption scheme therefore needs to make use of the same media channels used in advertising campaigns for new consumer products (press, radio, television, brochures, etc.).
What fraction of EOU products are used again?
The fraction of end-of-use products that are accepted at a reverse consumption centre and subsequently sent for reuse or reintroduction into consumption supply chains is calculated using the ‘product potential method’ as detailed in the RAL GZ 950 Quality Assurance and Test Specifications. The ‘product potential’ concept, which was developed in Luxembourg in accordance with the ecolabelling standard ISO 14024, provides a means for RAL auditors to annually assess the quality of the services being provided by RAL-approved RPCs. The resulting ‘product potential’ score for individual EOU products (see information box ‘Terminology used in the new RAL Quality Assurance and Test Specifications’ below) is made available at the reception points of RPCs and offers guidance to RPC users on the quality of the services being provided. As a result, consumers get an idea of which of the end-of-use products or materials being returned actually undergo significant reuse or recovery and which products are best avoided in future as they can only be reintroduced into the consumption cycle to a limited extent or they need to undergo specialist treatment and disposal.
Board chairman Robert Leven is confident that ‘the reverse consumption centres waiting to be audited by RAL will soon undergo RAL GZ 950 testing and, if successful, will then join the ranks of those modern quality-approved resource management facilities with the RAL quality mark. Other local authorities and municipalities are more than welcome to follow suit and, by acquiring the new RAL quality mark, demonstrate their commitment to user-friendly environmental services and to achieving the sustainable implementation of the circular economy model. The reverse consumption centre in Mettlach is a fantastic role model for other local and municipal authorities in Europe.’
If you would like further information on the subject or would like to discuss how best to achieve the goals of the circular economy, please contact the RAL Quality Assurance Association for Reverse Consumption for assistance.
Responsible for content in accordance with German media law:
RAL Quality Assurance Association for Reverse Consumption [RAL-Gütegemeinschaft Rückkonsum e.V.]
St.-Georg-Str. 37, 66663 Merzig, Germany
Tel. +49 172 2888537
Terminology used in the new RAL Quality Assurance and Test Specifications:
The term reverse consumption is understood to mean the body of measures used to receive end-of-use products from the final owners, to classify them, store them, pack and prepare them for onward transport, thus facilitating their reintroduction into the circular economy supply chains. Reverse consumption is the take-back of end-of-use consumer goods organized in a way that mirrors the service criteria that apply in the consumer retail sector.
The term end-of-use products and materials refers to products and materials that are returned by their current owners (private or commercial) with the intention that these products and materials will, to the greatest extent possible, be reintroduced into the circular economy.
The term product potential is used to describe a method for assessing and classifying end-of-use products in terms of their suitability for material recycling and/or energy recovery or disposal.
The term reverse consumption centre or its abbreviation RPC is understood to mean any centralized public or private facility at which end-of-use products are accepted from the final owners and then processed (collected, sorted, stored and packed and prepared for shipping or transport) for reintroduction into the circular economy. Reverse consumption centres are static facilities that are designed and constructed as ‘drop-off’ or ‘bring’ systems for end-of-use products.
Background: RAL – German Institute for Quality Assurance and Certification [RAL Deutsches Institut für Gütesicherung und Kennzeichnung e.V.]
RAL is the oldest professional certification body in the world.
The certification programmes include RAL QUALITY MARKS, RAL COLOURS, RAL ENVIRONMENTAL with the ‘Blue Angel’ ecolabel and RAL LOGO LICENSING. The widespread acceptance of RAL reflects the extensive experience that it has gathered over many years. The first RAL quality mark was issued back in 1925, the internationally respected RAL colour standard celebrated its 90th anniversary last year, while the ‘Blue Angel’ celebrates its 40th birthday in 2018.
RAL quality marks provide certification for thousands of products and services by verifying that they have been manufactured or marketed in accordance with stringent quality assurance specifications. There are currently about 160 RAL quality marks, ranging from A for ‘Anti-graffiti products’ to Z for ‘Zinc die casting’. So how does anyone keep track? Simple: The list we have compiled classifies the quality marks into different groups, displays the associated logo, tells you the name of the quality assurance association with responsibility for managing the mark, and identifies the associated quality assurance and test specifications.
The ‘Blue Angel’ is the world’s oldest environmental quality label for products and services. RAL is the only body with the authority to issue this respected ecolabel. And RAL is also authorized to award the European environmental label ‘EU Ecolabel’.