Energy from waste is cement industry's decarbonisation breakthrough strategy

The cement industry is making operational and technological advancements that reduce fuel and process emissions by moving away from fossil l fuels towards a clean, circular economy.

At the core of this self-regulating imperative is the resolve to speed up innovation in the cement industry with the crucial goals of enhancing sustainability and reducing the CO2 footprint.

Cement production has relied on coal and other fossil fuels to heat cement kilns and create clinker, the main component of cement, which releases huge greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributes up to eight per cent of the planet’s energy-related carbon footprint.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the demand for cement is expected to grow globally by 12 per cent to 23 per cent t by the year 2050.

As a result, forward-thinking cement manufacturers such as Bamburi Cement Plc have transitioned to alternative energy sources from fossil fuels in their cement-making processes to reduce the additional carbon footprint that is expected with this growth.

Producing clinker

Today, the firm has made investments in circular economy strategies like co-processing, which involves heating cement kilns and producing clinker by burning combustibles made from waste at 1,500 degrees centigrade, such as rice husks, waste oils, old tires, and used plastic.

This is through Geocyle Kenya, a waste management company set up by Holcim, the major shareholder of Bamburi Cement, to recycle waste into energy and use it to process the raw materials for cement plants.

Through co-processing, we have become consumers of non-recyclable waste and by-products from industries, including power, iron, steel, agriculture, and petroleum.

The co-processing of various forms of plastic waste helps the cement industry use less energy and solves the problems with trash disposal.

Bamburi has co-processed over 200,000 tonnes of waste over the past ten years and 25,000 tonnes annually in accordance with National Environment Management Authority (Nema) regulations, assisting cities like Nairobi, which generate over 2,400 tonnes of waste per day, in managing their waste.


Utilising rice husks as a fossil fuel substitute for coal in cement kilns helps Kenya’s food security and value addition equation address the country’s growing reliance on rice.

We have collaborated with millers in Kirinyaga and Kisumu counties. This is both a revenue-generating and environmental solution.

Kenya produces 60 million litres of waste oils annually, which the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) defines as hazardous.

We have ensured that waste oil is disposed of safely through our Safe Waste Oil Disposal programme with the Petroleum Institute of East Africa.

It is then utilised as an energy alternative in cement manufacturing because of its physicochemical composition, which is more similar to liquid fossil fuel.

As living standards rise, the number of car owners in Kenya rises. Old tires are becoming another source of waste.

To assure the secure disposal of used tires that would otherwise end up in landfills or burn in the open such as Dandora dumpsite, creating air pollution; we have worked with fleet and logistics firms to dispose of the waste tires by co-processing in a practical and ecological manner in our cement kilns.

Counterfeit products

Co-processing of condemned cargo in partnership with the Anti-Counterfeit Authority, Kenya Revenue Authority, Nema and Kenya Bureau of Standard has not only provided a solution for the safe disposal of counterfeit products but a substitute for fossil fuels.

Far from the evidence that links alternative fuels in kilns to better clinker quality, co-processing has substantially contributed to the acceleration of our net zero future ambitions through the reduction of emissions and sustainable waste management.

In 2021, Bamburi co-processed 117,467 tonnes of reused waste in our industrial operations against our target of 317,000 tonnes of waste by 2025. 

It is prudent for cement manufacturers to use waste as an alternative fuel in production to further the industry’s efforts to be environmentally friendly.

Importantly, sustainable waste management practices and operations will forge new pathways for the sector’s support of a circular economy in line with the national sustainability agenda.