IFAT 2016, an environmental trade fair held in Munich 30 May to 3 June, attracted more than 135,000 people who had the chance to visit more than 3,000 exhibitors, according to Messe München, the fair’s organiser.

A postevent news release issued by Messe München says approximately 138,000 visitors from more than 170 nations converged on Munich during the week to see exhibits from nearly 3,100 companies drawn from several environmental technology sectors.

This year also marked the 50th anniversary of the inaugural IFAT Messe München hosted in 1966, which featured 147 exhibitors and 10,200 visitors.

IMPRESSIVE GROWTH CHART

IFAT started out in 1966 not with recycling origins but as the International Trade Fair for Sewage Technology. Taking part in that premiere were 147 exhibitors from nine countries and 10,200 visitors from 40 countries. The exhibition space was 18,000 square metres (194,000 square feet).

Pioneering attendees and exhibitors from the first IFAT describe an event that was much smaller and quite different from the 2016 exposition.

“The first IFAT took place at a time when the word ‘environment’ was not on everybody’s lips like it is today,” says professor Dr.-Ing. E.h. Hermann H. Hahn. “But this trade fair played its part in raising awareness about the global nature of these challenges.”

Hahn says he is still enthusiastic about that premiere event: “For the first time, I saw that what I had studied at Harvard University could be of worldwide interest and [could] gather together an international trade audience from science and engineering.”

Horst J. Schumacher, publisher and editor of Kommunalwirtschaft, a Germany-based magazine for municipal services and authorities, says such an event was needed urgently. “Right up until the 1960s, there was no trade fair dedicated to the theme of water and wastewater. When attention finally did focus on it, many were surprised, and even shocked, at the condition of the water pipes and sewers. Then Messe München came up with the idea of starting IFAT.”

That idea turned into a 50-year success story that now encompasses solid waste, recycling and energy from waste.

Tom Kallmann, who in 1966 was a representative of Messe München in the United States, comments, “All I can say is: ‘res ipsa loquitur’—it speaks for itself. The concept behind IFAT, which has been continually developed over the years and adapted to the needs of the environmental technology sector, shows that the people behind this event were very forward-thinking and visionary.”

Manfred Fischer, who experienced the 1966 premiere as a young construction engineer with two years of professional experience, adds: “The development of IFAT over these 50 years is amazing. Back then the visitors to the show were mostly a small family of German wastewater engineers. But today the participants come from all over the world.”

Fischer continues, “I have indeed attended all 18 of the past editions of IFAT. It’s just a shame [the 2016 version] is only the 19th, so not a ‘round’ number to match the 50-year anniversary.”

That minor flaw did not seem to hamper attendance in 2016, when more than 3,000 exhibitors and 135,000 visitors converged on Munich to take part in the 50th edition of IFAT.

50 YEARS LATER

After the conclusion of the 2016 event, exhibitors and attendees expressed enthusiasm for the scope and the quality of the event.

“The feedback from all our participants was overwhelming,” says Stefan Rummel, managing director of Messe München, regarding the 2016 event. “The further rise in participation figures is impressive proof of how for 50 years IFAT has been shaping the development of the environmental technology sector.”

Dr. Johannes F. Kirchhoff, chairman of the advisory board of IFAT and managing partner of Germany-based truck manufacturer Kirchhoff Ecotec, says, “The exceptional performance of IFAT is continuing in 2016. Excellent new contacts were forged for our companies, in particular in the international arena. Overall, IFAT has been a tremendous success in its anniversary year.”

Messe München says it has received similar feedback from other exhibitors. “IFAT is still very much the uncontested No. 1 trade fair for the themes of recycling, water and services for municipal authorities and industry,” says Ludger Rethmann, chairman of Germany-based waste and recycling firm Remondis. “This event is like a lighthouse, beaming out a strong message around the globe that we should use the resources of our planet sustainably.”

Ferdinand Doppstadt, managing director of Germany-based wood and materials processing equipment maker Doppstadt, says, “As one of the biggest exhibitors at IFAT 2016, this has been a very positive experience for us. Indoors and outdoors we had many visitors at our presentation spaces. Over 50 percent of our visitors came from outside Germany. We were able to successfully present our international solutions competence to our target groups—to existing customers and new customers and also to developers and young engineers.”

The IFAT host nation of Germany provided the greatest number of attendees, followed by Austria, Italy, Switzerland, China, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Denmark and Turkey. Strong growth in attendance also has been counted from Australia, China, Israel, Italy and Singapore, says Messe München.

Attendees of the week-long event experienced crowded aisles and exhibition stands where numerous conversations were taking place at once. On the way to and from the IFAT event, attendees and exhibitors alike travelled on crowded trains served by two train stations at either end of the sprawling Messe München complex, which was formerly the site of an airport.

For many attendees, and certainly for exhibitors, the crowds and abundance of people is one of the foremost positive aspects of the event, which is held every two years.

The next edition of IFAT takes place 14-18 May 2018 in Munich.