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Addressing the problem of waste

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Cement,


The world is generating more waste than ever, and with the increasing urbanisation and industrialisation in developing countries, more and more countries are becoming major producers of waste.

However, developing countries often lack the needed infrastructure to sort, recycle, and manage household and industrial waste. This means that most of the waste ends up rotting in landfills which to Geocycle, LafargeHolcim’s global waste management business, is literally a waste of waste.

Using high temperature cement kilns, Geocycle co-processes all types of waste. Co-processing leaves no residues as the ashes get incorporated into clinker and the waste products are used as a direct substitute for fossil fuels and other raw materials. The higher temperature and longer residence time in cement production means cleaner combustion; and the avoidance of landfill and the uncontrolled dumping of waste reduces pollution and saves land.

Every year Egypt generates approximately 90 million t of solid waste, with an estimated annual increase of 3%. This growing waste problem, plus the need for Lafarge Egypt’s cement plant to reduce its fuel cost and secure an alternative source of energy for its operations, drove Geocycle Egypt to begin operating in the country in 2011.

“This year we aim to substitute 20% of the thermal energy needs of Lafarge Egypt’s cement plant by alternative fuels (AFs) generated from wastes, and we have an ambitious plan to reach a 40% substitution rate by 2020” said Amr ElKady, General Manager of Geocycle Egypt.

Starting with only four employees in 2011, the company today employs 30 people. With the annual generation of 30 000 t of AF for co-processing, Geocycle Egypt is an integral part of Lafarge Egypt’s operations, providing the plant with an optimised, reliable, and flexible fuel mix.

In November 2016, the company expanded its businesses and investments. Last year, Geocycle Egypt grew to pre-process and transport more wastes coming from agricultural, municipal, and industrial sources thus generating more than 300 000 t of reusable fuels and more than 20 000 t of alternative raw materials for the industry, while drastically reducing the amount of waste that would have otherwise been sent to dump sites or incinerated. “My colleagues and I take great pride in our work at Geocycle and that we are helping our communities to manage waste safely” ElKady added.

That being said, Geocycle Egypt continues to face many challenges, for several different reasons. To start with, the lack of supply was unexpected given that an average of 90 million t of municipal waste is being generated annually but municipal collection, the main source for AF, is at an average rate of 50%. Another main challenge is the lack of financing. Being in the waste management and recycling industry, there is generally a lack of financial support provided for waste sorting and processing facilities. Moreover the lack of incentives granted to those working in the sector in addition to its poor reputation, being associated with wastes, makes it an unfavorable sector to work in for many.

Nevertheless, Egypt has huge potential. With its growing population rate, the amount of generated waste is expected to continue to rise every year. Additionally, in an announcement by the Egyptian Minister of Environment earlier in April, he revealed that there is a plan to replace traditional sources of energy with AFs, especially those generated from refuse. This comes as part of the Industrial Pollution Control Project ‘Phase II’ that was launched by the Ministry to support and assist Egyptian industries to achieve environmental compatibility and abide by the laws. Simultaneously, the use of AF in cement production will support further growth for Geocycle. Therefore, ‘Waste to Energy’ might be the future of waste management as it requires large quantities of collected waste. For instance, a station that generates 10 MW can consume around 200 000 t of waste/year.

Furthermore, the country is currently witnessing waste management reforms, with a proposed new solid waste management law that is currently being discussed in the Egyptian Parliament with hopes it gets enacted soon. The new law will include incentive schemes to promote investments in the waste management sector and opportunities to introduce new and more sustainable solutions to manage one of the country’s longstanding problems. Focusing on creating a mutually beneficial situation, Geocycle Egypt offers proper waste management solutions to help reduce landfills as well as support in generating more AF for industrial use. The process also helped its partners, local municipalities, and even the Egyptian government, to properly manage their waste.

Today, the company provides its waste management services to a number of the largest multinationals in the country, and has helped some of them achieve their own ambitions of reaching zero waste to landfills through offering them complete and customised zero-waste solutions.

Moreover, Geocycle has had a positive social and environmental impact on the communities it operates in, whether by reducing the CO2 emissions generated from landfills or by creating direct and indirect jobs. This is particularly important for informal workers who work in the trash-sorting sector as garbage collectors, who are now part of the value chain and get the much needed health and safety training, vaccinations, equipment, and secured income.

The company has been an active contributor to the National Solid Waste Management Programme, aimed at the protection of public health, environment, and quality of living for Egyptian citizens through sustainable development of waste management practices. In December 2017, Geocycle Egypt was awarded with the Social Impact Award at the Swiss Egyptian Business Association. The award was presented by her Excellency, Dr Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, who recognised Geocycle’s efforts to improve the waste management process in Egyptian society and to develop the informal sector’s capabilities.

Looking to the future and with a vision to significantly increase the amount of waste that can be used as AF, Geocycle Egypt launched its new waste facility in Sokhna with a capacity of up to 350 000 tpy of AF from municipal solid waste and biomass. This project by the LafargeHolcim Group represents one of the significant foreign direct investments in the waste sector in the country with a value of CHF 10 million. The platform is the largest in the Middle East and North Africa and one of LafargeHolcim’s largest platforms.

“We’re really proud to have this leading facility in Egypt. We want to be part of creating a green, sustainable, and better future for our country, a future with zero waste, and we trust we can make a difference” Elkady concluded.

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LafargeHolcim news Cement news 2018