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The European Cement Association calls for circular economy policy

World Cement,

'The European Cement Association (CEMBUREAU) has taken note of the European Commission’s proposal for a headline resource efficiency target. In CEMBUREAU’s view, the target fails to capture real resource efficiency improvements by adopting the weight-based Raw Material Consumption (RMC) as a proxy.

CEMBUREAU deems that such an approach would unfortunately not take into consideration the contribution of many industrial sectors to the EU’s resource efficiency objectives. While the cement and concrete industry is raw-material intensive by mass, it is also one of the biggest contributors to the circular economy. Cement and concrete are manufactured using natural materials that are generally abundant and locally available. In addition, the sustainable use of waste forms an integral part of the cement manufacturing process, and therefore CEMBUREAU welcomes the recognition afforded to the role of energy recovery in the circular economy. Thanks to energy recovery (which reduces Europe’s fossil fuel dependence) and material recycling, close to 100% of the waste material input is recovered/recycled in the cement production process – without generating any additional waste. Furthermore, part of the clinker used in cement can also be replaced with byproducts from other industries, such as slag from steel production and flyash from power plants – a clear example of industrial symbiosis.

Concrete, which guarantees a building lifespan of 50 – 100 years, can also be 100% recycled at the end of its life, fulfilling up to 10% of demand for virgin aggregates for all applications. In this respect, it is important to note that concrete recycling can be both closed-loop (re-use in the same application) and open-loop (re-use in another application). Both open-loop and closed-loop recycling have benefits in terms of resource efficiency; one is not necessarily better than the other as they both prevent the extraction of virgin raw materials.

As such, CEMBUREAU believes that in order to enhance resource efficiency in the construction context, the following should be ensured:

  • When applying the waste hierarchy (prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery, disposal), options that deliver the best overall environmental, social and economic outcomes should be encouraged and assessed at the local level.
  • Efficient use of resources throughout the value chain spanning from extraction, manufacturing, construction, use, to end-of-life stages.
  • Use of resources in such a way that has the lowest environmental, social and economic burdens over the long-term.
  • Use of resources appropriate to the reserves available, i.e. scarcity/abundance are critical factors, which mean sustainability needs to be approached in different ways for different resources.’

Further information can be found here.


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