The cement industry in Europe can use its existing installations for the intake of waste, not only to offer a solution for waste that cannot be either reused or recycled, but also to avoid the need for Member States to invest in additional capacity, according to Cembureau, the European Cement Association.

It commissioned a report by Ecofys to clarify the role cement plants across the European Union can play, and how they can be part of European and national waste management policies.

In the production of cement, the Ecofys report noted, the cement industry used millions of tonnes of waste as alternative fuel and alternative raw material. This processing of waste while producing cement is commonly referred to as co-processing.

The study showed that co-processing of waste in cement kilns was already being widely employed across the EU, but that the potential for further uptake was still large.

It said that in the European Union, just over half of the waste generated was recycled, with 13% used for energy recovery, but with 35% still disposed of, mostly in landfills.

Cembureau said that based on the analysis by Ecofys, Member States could, already now, save between €9 and €16 billion by using existing capacity in the cement industry – an amount that it said corresponded to the investment required for the construction of new waste-to-energy incinerators.

It said that today, the cement industry had the technical potential to replace 60% of its fuels with waste and that, in the future, this percentage could rise to 95%.

According to Cembureau, taking into account the amount of waste generated in the EU each year, “the good use put to this growing amount of waste by the cement industry is a unique opportunity for waste management”.

The Ecofys study focused on three countries to illustrate progressive stages of waste market development – Greece, Poland and Germany.

It said the study clearly showed that, as Member States improved the way in which waste followed the higher ranks of the waste hierarchy and reduced their dependency on landfills, waste-to-energy options would increasingly play a role for residual waste.

The report was developed to provide information on how the European cement industry could contribute to the EU Energy Union Strategy by showing the potential waste uptake of existing cement plants across the EU, with benefits on fossil fuel savings, CO2 emissions mitigation, resource efficiency and the circular economy.

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