Munich: The Cradle of

Environmental Technologies

October 26, 2019

IMAGE: Messe München GmbH

Munich's commitment to sustainability is not limited to e-mobility, urban design and festivals. As Germany's leading technological base, every two years, the Bavarian state capital reaffirms that technologies can also be the answer to today's major environmental challenges. Because every two years, IFAT—the world’s largest trade fair for environmental technologies—takes place at the exhibition center in Munich.



It started off in 1966 as a modest conference and exhibition with just 147 exhibitors, solely for the wastewater industry. Today, it’s known as the world's leading trade fair for the entire environmental sector. The premiere only saw 10,000 visitors interested in the topic—so founding the trade fair was a truly visionary step by Messe München back then. However, at IFAT 2018 there were more than 3,300 exhibitors from nearly 60 countries, and visitor numbers also increased more than tenfold (over 140,000).





IMAGE: Messe München GmbH

The goal: a world without waste


Today, IFAT covers all areas of modern water management from supply to disposal, as well as waste and raw materials management. The big goal behind it: a world without waste, in which used resources are recycled and remain in the cycle. This not only applies to solid waste but also to our sewage, which hides treasures such as phosphorus and nitrogen. These can be used, for example, to produce fertilizer. And today’s modern treatment technology is already able to treat the wastewater itself so that it is the same quality as drinking water.


From Munich into the world


Drinking treated sewage? Unimaginable for us in Europe but possibly lifesaving in countries such as South Africa or India, where the population may face ‘Day Zero’, i.e. the day on which the last water resources are consumed.


This is precisely why Messe München exported IFAT around the world—to China, India, Turkey and South Africa—following the Munich example.

While the subsidiary fairs are dedicated to the respective environmental challenges of the individual countries, the "mother" IFAT remains the global innovation hub. World firsts are presented in Munich, and this is where the trends are set.



IMAGE: Messe München GmbH

The technology trends of tomorrow


A recent example of how IFAT is ahead of the game is the microplastics issue. These plastic particles, less than five millimetres in size, had barely made it into the public debate and the media when exhibitors brought their first technological solutions to IFAT 2018 in Munich. The manufacturer Funke presented a road gully filter, which is attached directly to the gully and prevents tire abrasion (which accounts for the largest proportion of microplastics in the environment) from entering the water cycle. Industrial production can also produce small plastic particles that sewage treatment plants often cannot remove completely. At IFAT 2018, the joint research project EmiStop showed how existing technologies for the treatment of production water can be optimized so that fewer microplastics reach the wastewater. Ideally, it can even be returned to production—completely in line with recycling and completely in line with IFAT.


Microplastics is not the only environmental issue that regularly attracts public attention. Better climate protection—that’s what pupils and students in over 100 countries are demanding when they demonstrate as part of the Fridays for Future movement. With a focus on ‘Sustainable Cities and Municipalities’, the next IFAT edition in May 2020 will reveal how the public sector can expand its commitment to climate change and set an example for citizens and industry.


IMAGE: Messe München GmbH

Preparing for climate change


In waste disposal and city cleaning, for example, modern innovations can help reduce emissions. Smart, sensor-equipped waste bins could actively transmit their filling level to the waste disposal companies. Thus, disposal routes could be better planned, avoiding unnecessary journeys, and smaller, electric waste-collection vehicles could be used. Also conceivable: all-electric sweepers. In 2018, the Swiss ASH Group proved at IFAT that these concepts are already practical today, as sweepers can work up to ten hours without recharging.


Subsequent adaptation to climate change is also an area that cities and municipalities can no longer ignore. One consequence of climate change is an increase in weather extremes such as heavy rainfall that overloads urban drainage networks, pumping stations and sewage treatment plants—as shown by the once-in-a-century rainfall event in Berlin in June 2017. Within a few hours, approximately one million cubic meters of wastewater had to be drained through the sewerage system; in dry weather, the figure is around 550,000 cubic meters. The IFAT exhibitors can find a remedy here as well and present technologies for the intelligent control of sewer networks and for the infiltration or retention of rainwater, which can often be used to completely prevent the complex expansion of the sewer network.



IMAGE: Messe München GmbH

Water stress: the crisis that hardly anyone talks about


IFAT is not only about “too much” but also about “too little” water, which will continue to intensify with the increasing heat waves and droughts. For 189 countries in the world, the Water Risk Atlas 2019 issued by the World Resources Institute (WRI) shows the ratio of water extraction to water supply and groundwater reserves, and the height of the drought and water shortage risk. The result: worldwide, there are 17 countries on the verge of ‘Day Zero’, as they already exploit 80 percent of their ground and surface water—even without heat waves. Europe is also affected: the ranks 18 to 44 include many Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece, as well as some Balkan states and, surprisingly, Belgium. On average, they use around 40 percent of their available water resources.

IMAGE: Messe München GmbH

Around half of IFAT 2020’s 270,000 square meters will be devoted to the efficient management of the ‘blue gold’—from extraction and treatment to recycling and disposal. In June 2019, at the South African subsidiary fair IFAT Africa in Johannesburg, the company Raedlinger Primus Line demonstrated that much can be achieved with apparently simple ideas. The solution of the medium-sized company is a flexible high-pressure hose, which is introduced into existing pipe systems—a new pipe in the old, so to speak. Leaks are reliably covered from the inside and water losses are a thing of the past. This is just one of many examples of how companies in the environmental sector are facing the greatest crisis of our time.


With all the challenges that climate change poses, one thing is clear: the right solutions, whether for municipalities or industries, are readily available at IFAT in Munich, which will take place next year from 4th-8th May.




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