Environment / Circular Economy :

Circular Economy

In brief

On 2 December 2015, the European Commission adopted its ambitious Circular Economy package with four legislative proposals on waste, including a proposal  to review the Waste Framework Directive. The Commission's aim is to reduce the amount of waste generated by encouraging improvements in the way waste is managed and recycled at Member State level. To do this, it has set several targets which include the recycling of municipal and packaging waste, and reducing the amount sent to landfill. On 14 June 2018, the revised Waste Framework Directive  as adopted by the European Parliament and the Council was published in the Official Journal.

Our view

The European cement industry is continuously using waste as a resource, thanks to what we like to call "co-processing". Co-processing is the use of waste as raw material, or as a source of energy, or both to replace natural mineral resources (material recycling) and fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and gas (energy recovery) in industrial processes. CEMBUREAU is very much in favour of legislation which recognises in addition to energy recovery this form of material recycling and its contribution towards achieving Europe's ambitious recycling targets. Some Member States (like France) already account for the recycling of the inorganic content of end-of-life tyres in cement manufacturing. CEMBUREAU’s aim is to get recognition at EU level. In article 11 of the revised Waste Framework Directive the following paragraph is added: “By 31 December 2028, … the Commission shall assess co-processing technology that allows the incorporation of minerals in the co-incineration process of municipal waste. Where a reliable methodology can be found, as part of this review, the Commission shall consider whether such minerals may be counted towards recycling targets.” As a result, CEMBUREAU is looking forward to being part of the discussions with the European Commission in its work regarding the assessment described in the article 11 of the revised Waste Framework Directive. Below are some key facts about how the cement industry contributes to resource efficiency:

  • About 5% of the raw materials used in the production of clinker in Europe consisted of recycled material and ashes from fuel, totalling about 9 million tonnes per year.
  • Alternative fuels, including waste biomass, constituted 46% of the fuel mix across Europe, saving about 7.3Mt of coal and resulted in 20Mt of avoided CO2 emissions each year. In 1990, the percentage of non-renewable energy gained by the use of waste as a fuel was 2%.
  • 15% of the alternative fuels used by the European cement industry consist of biomass from waste, such as meat & bone meal and sewage sludge.
  • The material recycling component of co-processing contributes towards Member States compliance with EU recycling targets.


Cement, Concrete & the Circular Economy
Summary report of co-processing in cement plants
Case studies of co-processing in cement plants
CEMBUREAU Position Paper on Plastics Strategy
Energy efficiency in the cement sector
Circular cement: processing waste to create cement in a circular economy
What is co-processing?

Environment / Waste-to-energy :


In brief

The European Commission is currently investigating ways in which the EU’s waste to energy potential can be fully exploited, as part of the Energy Union strategy.  With this in mind, it has undertaken an analysis of the solutions currently available across the EU, whilst at the same time evaluating the challenges faced by waste-to-energy operations.  The focus is primarily on the best possible utilisation of waste streams that are non-preventable, non-reusable, non-recyclable, in line with the waste hierarchy. On 26 January 2017, the Commission published a Communication in which it provides Member States with guidance when evaluating and revising their waste management plans.  This document, which is linked to the EU Action Plan for a Circular Economy, illustrates how it is possible to generate energy  from waste which is neither recyclable nor reusable.  This guidance document recognises co-processing in the cement industry as a waste-to-energy solution. Member States with low or non-existent dedicated incineration capacity and high reliance on landfill should take a long-term perspective and carefully assess the available capacity for co-incineration in combustion plants and in cement and lime kilns or in other suitable industrial processes.

Our view

The European cement industry provides a waste-to-energy solution thanks to co-processing, which refers to the use of waste as a source of energy or a raw material (or both) to replace fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and gas (energy recovery) and natural mineral resources (material recycling) in industrial processes. In 2016, conventional fossil fuels accounted for 56% of the European cement industry’s fuel mix, whilst alternative fuels from waste made up 44%.  Based on a recent study, it has been estimated that the sector has the potential to replace in the medium term up to 60% of its traditional fuels with pre-treated waste. In future, this figure could even rise to 95%!  Making the most of this waste-to-energy capacity has the advantage of reducing the need for additional investment in new waste-to-energy capacity.  Furthermore, Member States could save between €12.2 billion by utilising existing capacity in the EU cement industry, an amount that corresponds to investment required for the construction of new waste-to-energy incinerators. In the study Ecofys assess the barriers and opportunities for further uptake of AF in 14 EU member states. Ecofys found that local factors constrain the market potential to a much larger extent than the technical and economic feasibility of the cement industry itself. In this summary they present the overall findings. The detailed assessments are available in separate cases studies.

The clinker process is highly energy efficient. For example, an extensive share of waste heat is recovered by drying the raw materials and fuels in the integrated grinding mills. The high energy efficiency, the use of alternative fuels and using renewable energy sources has made the cement industry a success story in reducing both costs and carbon footprint.

According to the technical report “Evaluation of the energy performance  of cement kilns in the context of co-processing” by the European Cement Research Academy the energy efficiency in the cement kilns varies between 70% to 80% depending on the raw materials moisture content.

Cement, Concrete & the Circular Economy
Summary report of co-processing in cement plants
Towards zero carbon fuels
The view of cement sector

Environment / Emissions :


In brief

Cement manufacturing is covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).  This Directive specifies how to control emissions from industrial sources other than CO2, through the application of Best Available Techniques (BAT) which are defined in BAT Reference Documents (BREFs). Cement plants operate in accordance with a permit granted by the authorities in the Member States following the principles and provisions of the IED. The reference for setting the permit conditions is the BREF and its BAT conclusions, which describe, in particular, applied techniques, present emissions and consumption levels.

CEMBUREAU takes part in a formal exchange of information expert group organised by the European Commission that meets regularly to review and update BREFs.

Our view

CEMBUREAU believes that the IED and the BREFs are delivering environmental performance across Europe because their approach is:

  • Flexible
  • Focuses on continuous improvements
  • Addresses local environmental issues holistically.

Over the last decades, industrial emissions (e.g. NOx and SO2) in the European cement sector have fallen substantially. This has been achieved through major investments and the application of newly available technologies, as illustrated in the graph with the number of installations of secondary abatement for NOx in the EU cement industry.

CEMBUREAU believes that no policy should go beyond Best Available Techniques as applied in the IED. Industry’s improvement in environmental performance has been achieved through efficient implementation of existing EU legislation by Member States and their competent authorities. We welcome the integrated approach of the IED whereby permits are tailored to local circumstances and look at the whole environmental performance of the plant.

Best Available Techniques
Industrial Emissions Alliance Paper

Environment / Biodiversity :


In brief

Adopted in 2011, the EU’s biodiversity strategy carries the ambitious aim of halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.  Under this umbrella, the European Commission is working on a series of policies which aim to achieve this goal.  EU legislation in this field is underpinned by the Birds and Habitats Directives.  After consulting with stakeholders, the Commission recognised the value of these Directives and decided not to review them. Nevertheless, the consultation showed that more needs to be done to tackle their implementation at Member State level. The Commission is now working on an Action Plan to tackle this. 

One other area of concern are Invasive Alien Species (IAS), which have become one of the main contributors to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe. IAS are animals and plants that have been introduced accidentally or deliberately into a natural environment where they are not normally found, and which have a serious negative consequence on their new environment. Regulation EU/1143/2014 on IAS entered into force on 1st January 2015 and its core is the list of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern which is updated regularly.

Our view

The European cement industry contributes to the no net loss of biodiversity in Europe, thanks to the rehabilitation projects which it implements at quarry level. Indeed, in many instances, these projects actually generate a net gain for nature! But is does not do this alone. Across Europe sites work regularly with NGOs and universities to undertake research and develop the most suitable projects for that particular quarry. The sector also works hard to communicate on these projects and the importance of biodiversity, particularly to local stakeholders.  From a policy perspective, the cement industry is supporting the European Commission in its efforts to improve the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. CEMBUREAU's recommendations can be summarised as follows:

  • Encourage planning for both biodiversity and business at Member State level
  • Monitor and enforce implementation of the legislation at national level
  • Apply the principle of equal treatment, both in terms of sectors and countries
  • Develop species action plans
  • Establish a clear definition of what is a 'favourable conservation status'
  • Ensure adequate funding to enhance and maintain Europe's biodiversity

The cement industry is also paying close attention to IAS, given that quarry sites run the risk of becoming colonised by IAS.  With this in mind, the sector has developed guidance on the prevention, management and control of IAS at quarry level. 

Nature Conservation in Cement Quarries
The European cement industry's contribution to nature conservation
Implementation of Birds & Habitats Directives
CEMBUREAU & Birdlife International
Invasive Alien Species Guidance
Farmland Birds - CEMEX
Creating habitats that help farmland bird species
Concrete Habitats - HeidelbergCement
Innovative ways of enhancing biodiversity through the use of our product, concrete
Promote conditions that focus on the restoration of the original ecosystems
Innovative system in which granivorous birds and bees play a fundamental role
Biodiversity baseline study made at Leros quarry
Raise awareness of the important link between quarries and nature by engaging students
A project with local schools led to the creation of a nature trail
Building awareness on the environmental conditions of rivers
Restore the quarries using native species and minimize the impacts of quarrying activities
Dry area hosting an endangered species, Pusatilla Rubra
Move alkaline waste from the cement plant, to restore an area to a mixture of tree, scrub, lime rich grassland and wetland
Promote environmental education projects with focus on mining and biodiversity