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The perks of plastic

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World Cement,

Frank Goris, Arodo, considers the advantages of plastic over paper cement packaging and explains how the material could contribute towards CO2 emissions reduction in the industry.

The cement industry is facing an enormous environmental challenge, and it is widely acknowledged that the CO2 emissions it is responsible for must be drastically reduced. Every avenue is being explored in an effort to curb these emissions. However, the potential advantages of using plastic packaging are generally overlooked. The benefits are probably greater than initially expected.

The aim of becoming CO2 neutral by 2050 can only be achieved if the cement industry cuts its CO2 emissions by three quarters by 2050 compared to 2017 levels, according to calculations by research firm McKinsey. By that time, cement production must be less energy intensive. And there are gains to be made by switching to green energy. Using alternatives to the raw material clinker can also save CO2, not to mention other alternative building materials that can reduce the use of cement, such as CLT (Cross Laminated Timber).

Despite this, more than half of CO2 savings will have to come from new technologies, McKinsey argues. As examples, the agency mentions carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), carbon-cured concrete and 3D printing. But the most promising new technologies are not expected to bear fruit for several years.

Nevertheless, cement producers will soon be able to take a step forward by packaging their products differently. Paper bags are still the industry standard, although plastic offers a more environmentally friendly alternative. This may sound strange, especially at a time when plastic is a symbol of global pollution – ‘plastic soup’ certainly comes to mind. But a more nuanced view is needed here, and the benefits of plastic packaging should be explored.

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