The cement factories have the opportunity to change their business model and become companies that have activities connected to de-polluting activities, as compared to now, when they are perceived as being big polluters. This could be possible thanks to an industrial procedure that already has over four decades since it was experienced over and over again. At this point, the industrial procedure in question, namely the co-processing of waste, is starting to become interesting if we look at it from a business point of view. More precisely, the investments made to replace the raw materials and fossil fuels with waste and scrap are starting to return under the form of financial benefits for the Romanian cement factories.
The harnessing of waste differs depending on the type of waste that is subject to co-processing. The waste that has energy content can be put to work by substituting the fossil fuels, and those with ore and minerals composition can be recycled to substitute the raw materials and put to good use in the creation of alternative cements. Mihai Rohan, the President of CIROM, the Romanian association for Cement Industry and other Mineral Products for Construction, thinks that this industrial solution is the optimum solution to use the energy and material content of waste. Present at the Future of Environment Conference, he declared that the Romanian cement factories can now state that not only they are not heavy polluters anymore, but they are actively involved in solving an important social and environment problem.
7,5 million tons of municipal waste every year
The quantity of municipal waste generated every year is approximately 7,5 million tons, and most part ends up being buried in the garbage dump. Replacing of natural raw resources used in the industrial process with waste, sorted with care and in strict safety conditions, could be a viable solution for society and for the natural habitat, but for the industry as well. The impact is major. For example, the quantities of municipal and industrial waste co-processed in cement industry between 2004 and 2012 is approximately 1 million tons, roughly the equivalent of municipal waste generated in a year by 10 cities with over 250.000 inhabitants. Through the co-processing of this quantities the estimates are that at least 700.000 tons of natural resources were saved, and the carbon footprint diminished also by that amount.
In the present, the ranges of waste that can be co-processed are pretty vast. The cement factories have already been authorized to co-process over 100 types of waste and there are equipments for maneuvering, processing and monitoring. These are capable to process sorted domestic waste, paper and cardboard, plastic, wood waste, used tires, oil waste (used oils, tars and contaminated dales, leathers, used paints, etc. At the moment the co-processing procedure is impossible to perform on nuclear, infectious, medical or battery wastes.
The advantages of co-processing waste
The decades of development of this procedure have permitted to create the equipment and the necessary knowledge to manage it in correct and strict conditions. In the first place, this procedure allows us to make good use of both the energy and material content of waste. We need to say, in this context, that the high temperatures needed to total decompose the organic compounds already exist.
In the second place, co-processing waste does not produce ash or clay that would require further storage activities. Moreover, important natural resources are exempt in this matter. Other advantages that qualify this process for large industrial use are the gradual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the security, in controlled conditions, of traceability, verification and control of waste, and the complete safety of population and of the environment. Co-processing reduces also the quantities of waste that need to be stored and the risks associated.
Political support for waste co-processing
Waste co-processing can rapidly gain ground, since there is governmental and parliamentary support for the introduction and application of higher standards in waste management. Expert voices appreciate that the 211 Law/2011 regarding waste management has beneficial effects for the introduction of environmental and quality management systems, much better than the ones with which we are used to. The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Rovana Plumb, speaking at the Future of the Environment Conference, has declared that her Ministry finished the Strategy for an Integrated Waste Management.
Romania will have to reduce by half in the years until 2020 the quantity of domestic waste, currently estimated to be over 5 million tons annually. The President for Environment Protection Agency, Mihail Fâcă, considers co-processing to be a pillar for new business, and the integrated waste management at a county level could help in this direction, at least when it comes to sorting. The Environment Protection Agency is willing to take some extra measures and decided to invest into an accredited laboratory to test and monitor the emissions. In this way the traceability helps the potential investor to identify the history, use or location of a registered waste element.