Thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste is being harnessed to manufacture Australian cement in an initiative to clean up the image of one of the world’s biggest polluting industries. Flammable industrial waste, including oils, pesticides and chemical by-products, are replacing fossil fuels in powering high-intensity kilns at one of the nation’s biggest cement manufacturers. The process reduces greenhouse gas emissions by reclaiming waste that would otherwise go to landfill.
Geocycle, a subsidiary of Cement Australia, reclaims about 12,000t of industrial waste each year and is the only Australian company to re-use hazardous materials. The waste is transported to a processing plant in Dandenong, in Melbourne’s south-east, where it is analysed and blended to produce an optimum burn potential. The waste is then stored into 20,000 litre tanks and transported to Cement Australia’s manufacturing kilns in Gladstone and Queensland.
Geocycle operations manager John Hewitson said substituting waste for fossil fuels did not reduce greenhouse gases generated in the kiln but resulted in an overall reduction in emissions from landfill. "There are quite drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions overall and it’s certainly, from an Australian point of view, one of the ways that Australia can remain competitive in the manufacturing of cement," Mr Hewitson said.
Currently six per cent of fuels burned at Cement Australia is reclaimed waste - the rest comprises fossil fuels, including coal - but the company aims to increase that to 20 per cent within 10 years. In Australia, greater government subsidies for purchasing reclaimed oil - used to blend waste - would boost turnover, he said.
Geocycle charges up to A$600 a tonne for disposing of industrial waste. With the cost of landfill for hazardous waste set to increase to up to A$1000 a tonne in future, Mr Hewitson said there was a financial incentive for industry to find greener alternatives.