The German state of Bavaria has prospered from its industrial prowess for hundreds of years. An unfortunate side effect of economic success is contaminated soil. Now it’s time to clean up – and one innovative company is using sustainable methods to clean soil – including using Volvo Construction Equipment machinery.
Blue skies, rolling foothills and crystal-clear lakes have made Bavaria the number one tourist destination in Germany – and its local residents and government want to keep it that way. Environmental care is a big deal in the region and one local company is using innovative techniques to clean contaminated soil organically. Boden recycling Allgäu (BORAG), a subsidiary of Hubert Schmid GmbH, was the first soil bioremediation plant in south Germany. Its mission is simple – to ensure no stone is left unturned in the big clean-up of contaminated soil.
The city of Munich, in Germany’s prosperous south-east, has the strongest economy in Europe’s richest country – and its surrounding region of Bavaria has been fortunate enough to support a thriving machine-engineering industry for many years. BORAG cleans the contaminated soil and stones using bioremediation, while its sister-company, Hubert Schmid Recycling, washes the soil that has been contaminated by inorganic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) from coolant fluids and pentachlorophenol (PCP) used in pesticides.
"Our aim is to protect the environment in a sustainable way to ensure it’s safe for future generations,” says Hubert Schmid, chief executive of the parent company Hubert Schmid GmbH. “This is at the heart of everything we do in the energy, recycling and civil engineering sectors – and this is consistent in the machinery we use. Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) machines boast low fuel consumption and efficiency – caring for the environment just as we do.”
An organic approach to cleaning BORAG carries out ‘ex-situ bioremediation’, meaning that the contaminated soil is excavated from the site – using Volvo excavators – and transported to the treatment facility. That’s when the micro-organism metabolism gets to work – mixing with the soil to break down the hydrocarbons. Inside the warehouse, the air is drawn upwards into a vacuum that passes the length of the facility – creating an eerie mist. The air then travels through a washer, generating fog, and the wet air is cleaned by a biological filter and cycled back through to the main facility.
Reinhard Mayer, machine maintenance manager at Recycling – Umweltschutz GmbH, explains: “We move 80,000 tons of biological material and 40,000 tons of stone each year, so having a reliable machine and durable bucket to get the job done is very important.” In fact, the site has just one machine to rely on – a Volvo L180F wheel loader – that is in operation for 10 hours per day, five days a week. The company has fitted a Genuine Volvo Parts bucket to the wheel loader for maximum performance and quality – and after two years and 3,440 operational hours, the machine and its bucket are still going strong.
The L180F unloads materials that come from construction sites, disused fuel stations, railway tracks, manufacturing plants and oil spillages, and moves it into a separator. Depending on the particle size of the contaminated material, it is either transported into the treatment plant or recycled directly. Once the bioremediation process is complete, the material is loaded back onto trucks and reused.
“Decontamination can take between four weeks and six months,” says Reinhard. “It all depends on the size of the hydrocarbons and how long it takes to break them down.” To avoid the broken-down pollutants seeping back into the ground, the facility has been specially built – its design is similar to that of an urban waste depot but with an additional layer of oil-resistant asphalt on top.