Circular Economy

In brief

In March 2020, the Commission published the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. This is part of the European Green Deal, and lists initiatives that will impact our industry in the coming years.

The circular economy action plan is an ambitious document. It looks at reducing the consumption of resources, reducing waste and increasing circularity in the EU economy. One of the key areas of the circular economy action plan relates to waste. This builds on the Circular Economy package which had set several targets for recycling of municipal and packaging waste, reducing the amount sent to landfill and the revision of the Waste Framework Directive in 2018.

Our view

The European cement industry is continuously using waste as a resource, thanks to what is called "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 strongly supports legislation that 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.

CEMBUREAU supports the review of EU waste policy to ensure greater circularity throughout EU economy:

  • Landfilling should be either banned across the EU or highly taxed at Member States;
  • The development of a standardised EU model for separate waste collection could simplify waste management, improve efficiency of resource flows and ensure better access to secondary materials for business;
  • Export of waste outside the EU should be minimized. A review of the Waste Shipment Regulation should simplify waste movements within the EU and avoid unnecessary bureaucratic delays;
  • When waste is used in the cement kiln to produce clinker (the intermediate product of cement) its organic component provides heat inside the kiln and the non-combustible elements become part of the clinker, thanks to what is called “co-processing”. The potential of co-processing should be enhanced further through legislative & regulatory measures that recognise this form of material recycling and its contribution towards EU recycling targets.

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 52% of the fuel mix across Europe, saving about 7.8Mt of coal and resulted in 21Mt 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%.
  • 17% 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.
Position Paper
Joint position
Cement co-processing is a sustainable solution for recycling end-of-life composite materials
2050 Ambitions & The Role of Secondary Materials
Use of secondary raw materials in the EU cement industry - Questions & Answers
Status and prospects of Alternative Raw Materials in the European Cement Sector
Circular cement: processing waste to create cement in a circular economy
What is co-processing?