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Holcim uses kiln co-processing to dispose of waste in Lebanon

World Cement,

Local press has reported that, in a process that began on Monday 01 October 2012, 5 tonnes of expired pharmaceutical waste is being incinerated at Holcim’s plant in Shekka, Lebanon.

This work represents the beginning of the test phase of the Lebanese Government’s plan for disposing of over 1000 t of expired food and drugs that was discovered and seized earlier in the year. Vast quantities of expired meat were found being relabelled and resold across the country at the beginning of the year, and after public outcry over food safety, yet more was uncovered along with a large cache of expired drugs.

Holcim workers began by conveying 1 t into the kiln at a rate of one box every three minutes. The plan for the test called for the remainder of the 5 t test amount to be burned over three days. The agreement between Holcim and the Government specifies that an independent inspection company, APAVE, monitor the emissions from the kiln during the test to ensure that the exhaust emissions are safe.

If the emissions are indeed judged to be within safe levels, the incineration of the remaining drugs and food will commence in due course. “The test results are expected to take two months and the rest of the disposal will take at least a further two months,” said Jamil Bouharoun, speaking on behalf of Holcim.

Lebanese Environment Ministry officials say there are now at least 400 t of expired drugs and 700 t of spoiled food sitting in refrigerated storage units across the country. While waste burning is common practice in many parts of the world, it is rarely implemented in Lebanon. Due to the sheer quantity of waste involved in this case though, it was deemed to be one of the only disposal alternatives.

Holcim is making its facilities available to the government for free, and if the initial testing proves successful, it is likely that the government will make the Holcim plant its standard disposal site for the country because of the prohibitive cost of purchasing another disposal method.

Kiln co-processing currently accounts for 12% of the Shekka plant’s thermal energy, but Bouharoun suggests that the plant could play an important role in the disposal of the 150 t of pharmaceutical waste that is generated every year in Lebanon.

Bouharoun said, “Co-processing in cement kilns reduces the overall environmental impacts by replacing two sources of emissions [fossil fuel combustion in cement kilns and waste disposal in landfills or incinerators] with a single one.” 

Written based on information from various sources by Jack Davidson.

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