The end of 2017 is in view. The first snow has fallen and the Christmas trees stand once again in the living rooms. It’s a bit of a cliché, but this is a period when you automatically think back on the year gone by. And then you’re struck by all that has happened, and that things can really change in a relatively short period of time.
And society is facing enough challenges that call – nay, cry – for change: the exhaustion of our natural and energy resources, climate change, the huge quantities of (micro)plastics in our environment, and the threat to vulnerable water sources, to name only a few… Over the last year we have seen too many signals and even calamities not to take these matters seriously and respond to them (more) rapidly.
But I am positive about it. Perhaps with the exception of a couple of dissidents, there is not much of a debate as to whether these challenges need to be solved. We are now at the stage of determining how we’re going to do it. An extraordinarily tough question to be sure; but one to which the adage applies: where there is a will, there is a way!
Over the past few years significant steps have been taken which perhaps provide the basis for an acceleration or for rigorous solutions. Investments in sustainable energy are growing exponentially. Besides the technological advances, at the end of this year a contract was even signed for the generation of solar power for only 1.79 ct/kWh (compare that with the rate in your electricity bill!). True, this concerns the Middle East, but it represents a breakthrough nonetheless. In addition, more and more countries are banning plastic bags – for example, last year this was done in Kenya and Rwanda. And in the Netherlands, we have a new government that has further heightened ambitions for sustainable energy and circular raw materials.
I am also especially proud that in 2017 we could again contribute to the reasonable management of available raw materials. We succeeded in giving a new and high-value second life to about 240,000 tonnes of residuals. And the amount just keeps on growing. Not because more residuals are being produced, but because more and more watercycle organisations are entrusting us with their residuals.
But the finest developments in 2017 were the solid steps we took towards the complete reuse of materials from the watercycle. For instance, we make calcite seed from our own calcite pellets; a process that is being applied more and more widely in the softening of drinking water. We also have shown, working with a number of drinking water companies and KWR, that iron pellets – made from our own aquafer – can remove arsenic from water; to levels far below the applicable standards! And this year, again with the drinking water sector and KWR, we launched a research project aimed at using the aquafer to make a coagulant which removes suspended solids from surface water.
All in all, positive and constantly accelerating developments. And I haven’t even mentioned what we’re up to with and for the waterboards. But more about that later. First, I’ll be doing some Christmas tree decorating!