Growing private sector demand at Cologne

Internationalisation and integration and privatisation were the themes underpinning this year's Entsorga, the International Fair for Recycling and Waste Disposal held in Cologne in June.

The fair attracted 55,000 trade visitors from 86 countries and exhibitors reported increased interest from buyers in particular from the Far East, Asia and Latin America.

As environmental protection becomes increasingly integrated, for the first time this year, the water supply technology sector was represented at Entsorga. Its inclusion also reflects an increasing trend in the marketplace – companies which traditionally have concerned themselves with the disposal of solid waste are now including wastewater treatment and the supply of water in their range of services.

However, the additon of water supply at Entsorga is also significant given the fact the European water supply companies are increasingly handing over their water operations to private third parties.

Although exhibitors reported a stable market in the municipal sector, which had a significantly greater presence at the fair than in the past, the European water industry is undoubtedly restructuring, and private sector demand is increasing.

In Germany alone, 7,000 municipal waterworks are preparing themselves for the restructuring and opening up of this sector to increased competition and privatisation. The Berlin waterworks has been taken over by a private consortium consisting of RWE (Essen), Allianz (Munich) and French conglomerate, Vivendi.

Moving into non-core business is another trend. Gelsenwasser AG, the country’s largest water supplier also offers wastewater services and is making strategic alliances and participating in municipal invitations to tender – last year it successfully acquired the sewerage treatment of the city of Bremen.

In view of the enormous demand for investment and the shortage of public funds, public disposal service providers are also increasingly seeking foreign capital and private enterprise solutions.

Although the European wastewater market is still in a state of flux, EU Directives continue to stimulate demand and set trends, targets and technological innovation. For example, sewer inspection and restoration were main themes in the water/wastewater sector at Entsorga and exhibitors reported an increased interest in the potential for building in cable ducts for glass fibres during restoration works.

In terms of legislation, the 1992 EU municipal wastewater directive aims to connect practically all municipalities with more than 2000 inhabitants to sewage and water purification plants by the year 2005. This means almost 40,000 wastewater purification plants will have to be constructed or restored throughout Europe.

Although some 76% of the European population is connected to sewage and water purification plants, the picture is patchy. Even 10 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, there is still a line dividing Europe with regard to water supply, sewer systems and wastewater treatment. The former economic and political systems, together with the current instability in the Balkans have left a legacy of under funded and neglected infrastructures.

In Greece only a little over 10% of the population is connected to sewage and water purification plants, whereas in Denmark practically the whole population (98%) is connected. In Germany, although there are more than 10,000 sewage plants which treat the wastewater of more than 90% of the population more work needs to be done in the new federal states where only 60-70% of the population is connected.

Specifically, the markets in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are regarded as having the greatest potential, while the smaller markets of Slovenia and the Baltic countries are marked by financial, legislative and administrative market restrictions.

Exhibition details are on The next Entsorga will be held 27-26 February 2003 in Cologne.

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