Circular economy is a reliable, contemporary proposal for sustainable development, which benefits the society, the economy and the environment, in many ways.
Circular economy, in simple words, is the extension of the life cycle of products combined with the saving of non-renewable natural resources, through the reuse, recycling and recovery of energy and materials.
The transition from the linear “procur, manufacture, consume, dispose” model to the circular economy model that focuses on “reduce, re-use, repair, recycle, recover”, requires changes in the entire life cycle of the products, from the beginning of the production process (design of the products) to their use and final disposal.
The cement industry is already actively contributing to the implementation of the circular economy model at different stages of production, as well as through the adoption of collaborations (industrial symbiosis) with other industries.
By promoting the circular economy, the Greek cement industry contributes to sustainable development through three pillars:
The application of the circular economy in the cement industry has a triple benefit as it has a positive impact on society, industry and the environment.
In the context of tackling climate change, substituting non-renewable fossil fuels with alternatives is crucial to reducing the environmental footprint of the cement industry. At the same time it contributes significantly to the enhancement of its competitiveness.
Cement industry, applies “co-processing”, which promotes the active and complete recovery and recycling of materials, in accordance with the fundamental principles of the waste management methods prioritization in the European Union. Materials that cannot be recycled (waste, processed products) and that would otherwise end up in a landfill or pollute the environment from their uncontrolled disposal, are used in the cement industry as alternative fuels or alternative raw materials.
The use of waste either as alternative fuels or raw materials is a proper and harmless practice, as the organic part is completely destroyed, while the inorganic part is bound and integrated into the product.
Nowadays, almost all European countries (Netherlands, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, etc.) utilize to a large extent treated waste in the kilns of their cement production plants, saving fossil fuels and raw materials, at the same time protecting the environment and providing a competitive advantage in the industry. In Greece, utilization still remains at low levels despite the concerted efforts of cement producers. In the medium-term the application of co-processing is expected to increase as there is a clear improvement in the environmental licensing procedures for the use of alternative fuels in the cement industry. However further effort is required to be fully harmonized with the European legislation.
At European level, in March 2020, the Commission published the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, which is part of the European Green Deal and lists initiatives such as reducing consumption of resources and waste, but also increasing circularity in the EU economy, which will affect our industry in the coming years.
More information on the processing of waste materials and how it can contribute to sustainable development is provided here.
The construction sector is of a strategic importance for sustainable development, as it is estimated that while it represents approximately 10% of GDP at European level per year, it is also responsible for 40% of the energy consumed and 36% of carbon dioxide emissions in Europe.
For this reason, efforts are being made in order for the Greek construction industry of tomorrow to be innovative, climate neutral and follow the principles of the circular economy. In the coming years, a significant part of the Greek cement industry turnover should come from products, services and solutions with improved sustainability performance.
Through constant research for innovative solutions, we monitor international trends to reduce our environmental footprint, with a particular emphasis on carbon dioxide emissions, both through improvements in the production process and the development of low carbon footprint products.
Technological research in the cement production process covers a wide range of factors including, among others, increased strength, reduced drying shrinkage by the creation of controlled swelling, increased resistance to chemical attacks, reduced CO2 emissions and neutral behavior during exposure to the environment.
In this direction, the Greek cement industry brings to the market a wide range of new products with a low carbon footprint, in order to respond to the important challenges of the sector and keep up with the need for sustainable construction.
In addition, it participates in European programs and international initiatives for the development of innovative technologies, methods and materials with the ultimate goal of improving the carbon footprint and responding to future global goals regarding climate change.