Four major Japanese cement manufacturers will strengthen their waste treatment operations, without which their cement businesses are said to be barely profitable.
The companies have traditionally treated discarded tyres and plastics into fuel. But these materials are becoming hard to get, as paper mills and others vie for the fuel sources amid rising crude oil prices.
This has prompted the cement firms to shift their focus to other types of waste, ones the other industries are not interested in handling, such as the ash left over from burning urban rubbish and debris from the smashing of scrapped vehicles. Working with these types of waste is said to be much more lucrative, receiving rates at least six times those for discarded plastics.
Mitsubishi Materials Corp will spend JPY6bn through fiscal 2013 to start handling ash from urban trash and interior debris from scrapped vehicles. The company will install equipment at its Kanda plant in Fukuoka Prefecture to remove chlorine content from the waste so it can be converted into fuel. The company expects its waste treatment business to generate about JPY16bn in sales in fiscal 2013, up 15% from fiscal 2009.
Ube Industries Ltd has earmarked JPY4bn for outlays over the three years through fiscal 2012 in the hopes of increasing sales by JPY1bn a year from JPY13bn in fiscal 2009. The firm will set up a facility in Yamaguchi Prefecture for drying sewage sludge while expanding its capacity to handle urban trash ash at another Yamaguchi location.
Taiheiyo Cement Corp will invest JPY2-4bn through fiscal 2012 to switch to higher-margin waste. The firm will set up a facility to treat urban refuse ash at a Hokkaido plant and will start handling scrapped vehicle debris at an Oita Prefecture facility.
Sumitomo Osaka Cement Co started treating scrapped vehicle debris in May at a Gifu Prefecture plant and urban refuse ash in August at a Hyogo Prefecture site. The firm will continue to invest in this segment.