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Waste Fires Cement Kilns, Cuts Costs

holcimToxic toys, contraband cigarettes and old sunglasses are among the waste products being burnt to manufacture cement by Holcim, Bloomberg reports.

Holcim — the world’s largest cement manufacturer — is increasing its use of waste in place of coal to heat cement kilns as a means of cutting costs. Holcim sites from India to Vietnam are now using waste in this way, the news service reports.

The hunt for waste to be used as fuel has led to a de facto expansion into waste management and the creation of a new income stream as companies such as cigarette manufacturers pay to have their expired and fake products burned, the news service reports.

Holcim’s waste-burning initiatives may make some cement plants in Asia as energy efficient as their European equivalents, Bloomberg says.

Energy currently accounts for about a third of the cost of making cement, making savings right now massive, according to Ian Osburn, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald. But Osburn tells Bloomberg he foresees diminishing returns on savings as other cement companies catch up to the idea and begin implementing it themselves.

Alternative fuels currently account for about a fifth of energy used at European cement plants but less than 1 percent of those in Asia. Countries such as India could boost the use of alternative fuels to 25 percent “over the next decades,” according to Phillipe Fonta of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Cement Sustainability Initiative.

The global cement industry has reduced its specific net CO2 emissions per ton of product by 17 percent since 1990 – from 756kg/ton to 629kg/ton. Meanwhile, companies’ cement production increased by 74 percent between 1990 and 2011, according to a WBCSD Cement Sustainability Initiative report released in July.

The four main drivers for the reduction in emissions are:  investment in more efficient kiln technology, increasing use of alternative fuels such as biomass, reduction in clinker content and an 8 percent decrease in electricity use per ton of cement since 1990, the report says.

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