The Remanufacturer of the Year 2017 award went – for the first time – to two people: Adam Hill talks to Salvador Munoz Zarate and Peter Bartel (above left) about their long journey through the meeting rooms of the world in negotiations which will benefit everyone in reman.
As confetti cascaded down and music blared out at the ReMaTec Theatre in Amsterdam, Salvador Munoz Zarate and Peter Bartel basked in the well-deserved glow of admiration from their peers. These two men – uniquely in the history of the award – had just been jointly given the Remanufacturer of the Year trophy. Last year’s winner, Rolf Steinhilper, was on stage to present it. Zarate and Bartel were not honoured for a lifetime of achievement (they are both some way from retirement age) but for their tireless efforts to bring reman to the attention of politicians and policy makers at the United Nations and the European Commission. The thing is: these two men have done this work unpaid because they think it is the right thing to do, giving up vast amounts of their time to sit in airport lounges and meeting rooms all over the world, all with the blessing and support of their employers – and their families. Zarate, whose demanding day job is business enterprise leader, Wabco Reman Solutions, was part of a CLEPA working group on reman and recalls a chat years ago with leading reman academic Nabil Nasr, who said that representing the voice of the industry to policymakers was increasingly vital. “Can you help explain reman?” Nasr asked.
So began a lengthy process of analysing legislation and seeing what worked and what didn’t. When Bartel, now marketing/engineering director at Circular Economy Solutions, became involved in this journey, he was on the board of APRA, looking at business reman strategies and realising that the industry had a huge problem. “No-one knew what reman is,” he says. “We decided at APRA that we have to lobby.”
The association created headline figures in areas such as environmental impact with which it could go to politicians and make a case. “Wabco was involved from the beginning,” says Bartel. They are both well aware that all of this would have been impossible without the support of their companies. “Wabco were committed to do it,” says Zarate. “They put in trust, commitment, resources. I had a lot of support from the internal legal department. There’s a team behind you – it’s not a one-man show.
They drew up a list of key points as it’s crucial to explain things to politicians using very precise examples.” Policy makers, like the rest of us, respond to visual stimuli – so the use of images and videos to show how reman works and why it is important has been crucial.
One European politician even said: “We have to support this! I never thought it would be so professional, so clean!” Such a reaction sounds ridiculous to those in the industry, of course, but what Zarate and Bartel have managed to do is to show the powers that be that reman will play a crucial role in making the circular economy a success. Many of their discussions revolved around one simple question: ‘Are you in the waste industry or not?’
Waste or not?
“That’s still a key topic,” sighs Bartel. “If you have an iPhone 7 on the market, then you have an older iPhone being discarded – but it’s still in perfect condition. There should be a clear international understanding that a product which is handled within a circular economy business model, if used, is never considered waste. It’s a new material: it’s the bedrock of the circular economy.” You have to get very precise, continues Zarate: “According to the European Directive, if someone intends to discard something, then it’s waste. As Peter said, there’s no notion of ‘there’s something we can do with this’. Bring a car to a scrapyard after an accident and it’s waste – yet the engine is in perfect condition.”
But waste in general costs more to transport – and there are some countries which refuse to take it – which means that the transport of cores becomes expensive, or even impossible. The Basel Convention on the movement of waste between nations is relatively restrictive: one major issue is that you cannot take waste from the developed world to developing countries. Bartel explains: “If I’m sending a ship of used starters and alternators to America, from Hamburg via Tunisia, it’s illegal: I can’t use a ship that is going to Tunis harbour. I need a direct shipment or I need to fly it.” Similarly, try getting cores from the Czech Republic to Indonesia without touching a non-OECD country.
There are other intricacies: for instance, the European Union commits to Basel, but some EU countries have different rules on waste. You might need different packaging in different countries for the same product – an administrative nightmare. “But if it’s non-waste, there’s no problem,” Bartel points out.
But surely all cores are not considered waste? They both laugh spontaneously. “That’s a very blunt question!” says Bartel. Clearly, these two men have not been dealing in blunt questions in their negotiations – it is instead all about the nuances. “You need the full understanding of lawyers, and you need to explain this to policy makers,” says Zarate. And the pair have done just this all over the world. They reel off a list of cities - Geneva, Berlin, Washington, Tokyo, as Vegas, Bologna, Rochester – and are sure they’ve probably missed one or two out.
There can even be something gladiatorial about the process. For a start, United Nations’ governing bodies for international conventions such as Basel – the so-called Conference of the Parties (COP) – meet in an amphitheatre, with representatives from 150 or so countries. Zarate and Bartel were there as ‘observers’, with no right to vote on anything. All they can do is to ask to have the floor to make a brief statement. Isn’t that stressful? “Of course!” laughs Bartel. “It can be late at night, people are tired and fed up – but you have to make a decision. It is one week, and you are looking for people to support it from 8am till late at night. They are fighting over a comma, the wording. You are able to make one- to two-minute statements. What you are looking for is alignment between NGOs and industry: if you get that then there’s a high probability that politicians will support it.”
With all these competing interests, so much of the work they did must have been like playing three-dimensional chess, constantly having to check how different pieces are moving on several different boards. It takes skill and patience – a lot of patience, not just from the two men and their companies. Bartel says: “My wife said: ‘So you are getting the award for ignoring your family’s needs!’” Yet it seems all the travelling, all those discussions and the weekends away from family and loved ones have been worth it.
Legislative changes on the cards in Europe include: getting public bodies to procure reman products; tax reductions on reman products; overcoming trade barriers; and changing the definition of waste. Zarate and Bartel are both at pains to point out that laws affecting reman are created with the best intentions – no-one tries to make things difficult for the industry – but the unintended consequences of, say, classifying cores as waste products, are profound. In essence, and in large part because of their efforts, policy makers have gone from ignoring reman to supporting it.
The prospect of parts which are for use in the circular economy not being classified as waste sounds like a very small step. But the impact on the reman industry has the potential to be huge. Arguing over commas is very important, as Zarate and Bartel both know.
Why they won: the judges' citation
“In an unprecedented move, Salvador Munoz Zarate of Wabco Reman Solutions and Peter Bartel of Circular Economy Solutions have been jointly awarded the ReMaTec Remanufacturer of the Year 2017. The jury has given it to them for their tireless work in representing the European automotive remanufacturing industry in lobbying and advisory activities with the United Nations and European Commission. They were the driving force behind the industry’s declaration of common definitions and have together made a massive contribution to the greater understanding of the global remanufacturing sector by Salvador Munoz Zarate (left) and Peter Bartel politicians and policy makers.”