Holcim has succeeded in using alternative fuel at many of its plants worldwide. Holcim has now begun to apply the new approach to its affiliate plant in Saraburi province, Thailand, with an investment amounting to Bt1 billion.
"Holcim is using household and industrial waste to substitute for fossil fuels, including coal and lignite, in the production of cement," said Barbara Dubach, vice president of Holcim Group Support Ltd. "After 15 years of using alternative fuels and raw materials for cement production, alternative fuel now makes up more than 34 per cent of fuel consumed by Holcim cement plants in Switzerland."
The company has invested heavily in the new approach, but it regards it as a long-term investment that will benefit both the company and the community, said Leo Mittelholzer, managing director of Siam City Cement Plc (SCCC), the Holcim Group’s Thai affiliate.
"When I was a child I could not swim in the rivers because the water was highly polluted," said Mathias Tellenbach, an official from Switzerland’s Federal Office for Environmental Work Management. “Now, I can swim in any river.”
"[With regard to pollution] Thailand is now similar to what we were 20 to 25 years ago, when we dumped waste into our environment." Such cleaning of the environment does not happen overnight. It takes time and close cooperation between authorities, private companies and communities, Tellenbach said. Mittelholzer agrees. "We often had tough discussions and [made hard] decisions," he said, recalling his company’s dealings with authorities over environmental issues.
Multinational companies based in industrial countries have also been criticised by their local media for neglecting environmental issues in developing countries where their subsidiaries operate. They are accused of turning a blind eye to poor corporate governance on the part of their subsidiaries. "At Holcim, we do not follow that path," Mittelholzer said. "We invest in clean energy and environmental protection in every country where our companies operate."
Holcim has introduced its waste-management technology into the SCCC plant at Saraburi in a joint venture with Thai partners led by Krit Ratanarak. As it is elsewhere, alternative fuel technology is an expensive development in Thailand. SCCC’s efforts to find alternative fuels and raw materials are costing about Bt1 billion. But there are positive results. Since 1999, SCCC has used more than a million tonnes of agricultural and industrial waste in its cement-manufacturing process, Mittelholzer said.