#CEMBUREAU – How the European cement industry is securing a sustainable future today

| May 15, 2019

CEMBUREAU acts as the representative association for the cement industry. It comprises the national cement industry associations and cement companies of the European Union (except for Malta and Slovakia) plus Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, with Croatia and Serbia acting as associate members, writes European Cement Association CEMBUREAU Chief Executive Koen Coppenholle.

Cement is vital for our modern European society. It is a critical ingredient in the concrete that is used in many of the homes, buildings and infrastructure we depend on every day.

The European cement industry provides 47,000 direct jobs and adds over €4 billion in value to the European economy. When we include the concrete industry, this grows to over 1 million jobs and over €56bn in added economic value.

Making cement is energy intensive and the sector is therefore working hard to improve the sustainability of its operations. Significant progress has already been made to reduce the use of fossil fuels in Europe’s cement kilns. The use of suitable alternative fuels in cement kilns is known as co-processing. Co-processing allows everyday waste to be reused as an alternative energy source and also provide raw materials to make cement.

Each year approximately 10 million tonnes of waste is co-processed in cement kilns throughout Europe. By taking mixed plastics, used tyres, solvents, biomass and other materials, the cement kilns are providing a real solution for dealing with these difficult to recycle materials. Without cement kilns, communities would be forced to fund other more expensive and less effective treatment options. Co-processing reduces CO2 emissions, decreases demand for virgin fossil fuels and ensures that discarded resources are fully recovered. It is a true example of the circular economy on a massive scale.

On average in Europe, 44% of the heat needed to make cement is sourced from alternative fuels, but there are significant differences in the level of co-processing across member states, ranging from a low of 7%, up to 65%. A recent study by Ecofys show that there are no technical barriers preventing a 60% average co-processing rate by 2030.

What is clearly lacking is a co-ordinated approach across Europe that unlocks co-processing’s full potential. This week is EU Green Week and the theme is placing environmental implementation into the spotlight. A key question for the European Commission is Why do “implementation gaps” exist? A key focus for CEMBUREAU is to address the legislative and regulatory differences that exist across Europe to ensure the cement sector can attain that 60% co-processing rate.

As we head into a year of change for the EU institutions, the industry is calling on the European Commission to ensure co-processing contributes to national municipal waste recycling targets. Work is underway with the European Commission to find a reliable method to assess the benefits of co-processing. But it will also require incentives and supports to continue to divert waste away from landfill, to encourage the proper sorting of municipal waste and to ensure members states achieve their full recycling potential.

During EU Green Week, the European cement sector is highlighting just one area where it is working to build a more sustainable and circular Europe. With a high level of ambition and cooperation among policymakers and industry, Europe’s ambitious circular economy and climate action goals can be realized.

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