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Waste, a strategy for reducing the carbon footprint of industries


The Assises des Déchets waste management conference, which took place in France on 23 and 24 September, provided the opportunity to re-emphasise how important this sector is in combating climate change. Improved waste management and recovery actually helps to reduce the overall CO2 emissions of households, communities and also of industries. The number of initiatives in this area is increasing, such as those recently announced by Tereos in France and CEMEX in the United Kingdom.

Credit: Thinkstock – Cylonphoto

Of all the activities that emit GHG (greenhouse gases), waste management represents only a relatively small proportion, compared to the transportation, agricultural and construction sectors. According to the UNEP, the waste management sector is responsible for between 3% and 5% of global GHG emissions. To this figure, which is linked in particular to landfill sites that generate methane emissions, we should add indirect emissions attributed to other sectors, including transportation. The waste sector does, therefore, have a role to play in mitigating GHG emissions, both in terms of reducing the volume of waste and in waste recovery. The UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) wrote about this as far back as 2005: “the waste sector is in a unique position to move from being a minor source of global emissions to becoming a major saver of emissions”.
Recycling waste, or recovering it as an alternative energy source, actually makes it possible, on the one hand, to reduce the GHG emissions associated with the use of raw materials and, on the other, to provide an alternative to fossil fuels. More and more industries are embracing these opportunities and transforming others’ waste into a new resource to meet their own energy requirements.

This is what Tereos, in particular, is doing. The world’s 3rd largest sugar producer has just announced the opening of a new 3km green steam network at Lillebonne, near Le Havre in France, connecting its production plant to Ecostu’Air, the SEVDE (Federation for the Elimination and Energy Recovery of Waste from the Seine Estuary Area) energy recovery unit. Operated by SUEZ, this unit will, from now on, fulfil nearly 70% of the energy requirements of the Tereos Group’s plant, supplying it with 27,500 MWh of electricity and close to 330,000 MWh of steam each year, generated by recovering waste from the local area. In this way, the manufacturer is replacing natural gas with green, renewable, local energy, and reducing its carbon footprint by limiting its use of fossil fuels.

CEMEX, the 8th largest cement manufacturer in the world, has adopted a similar approach at its factory in Rugby, near Birmingham, in the United Kingdom. This factory, which has the UK’s largest cement kiln, now uses solid recovered fuels (SRFs) to meet some of its energy needs. The SRF it uses, Climafuel®, is produced from ordinary industrial waste (OIW) and domestic waste that could not be sorted and recycled (some woods, plastics, paper, cardboard, etc). It produces the same amount of energy as conventional coal (1.5 tonnes of SRF generates the same amount of energy as one tonne of coal). CEMEX’s action in this area is part of the partnership it has with SUEZ, which has developed a facility capable of treating up to 300,000 tonnes of waste per year, 70% of which comes from local companies and 30% of which is household waste. Implementing this solution is perfectly consistent with CEMEX’s strategy: in 2014, the group reduced the overall CO2 emissions of its cement works globally by around 23% compared to 1990, mainly by using alternative fuels in more than 90% of its plants .

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