LafargeHolcim Bangladesh Ltd (LHBL), a company that manufactures cement and clinkers, has set an example in sustainable waste management through its Geocycle project situated in its Chhatak plant in Sunamganj.
The unique feature of Geocycle is that it disposes of a wide range of non-recyclable wastes by burning them in kilns and using the heat to produce cement.
Waste generation has increased massively around the world in recent decades. As one of the fastest urbanising economies in South Asia, Bangladesh's waste volume doubled every 15 years.
An average of 55% of solid waste remains uncollected in urban areas. A large portion of this waste is dumped uncontrollably, landfilled, or openly burned – none of which are sustainable long-term solutions.
As per industry experts, by 2025, only urban waste generation in Bangladesh is projected to be approximately 47,000 tonnes per day.
There is a growing concern in favour of sustainable waste management issues in developing economies including Bangladesh due to the current growth in waste generation. Bangladesh fell short in addressing the issue due to a lack of awareness and policy.
LHBL is a member of Holcim Group – a global leader in innovative and sustainable building solutions based in Switzerland. Operating for almost two decades, it has made about $500 million in investment which is the highest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the cement industry of Bangladesh.
Geocycle has a capacity of disposing of 1,000 tonnes of waste daily in a fully-automated way. This waste helps to generate the heat required to produce clinker – a key raw material of cement.
Officials of LafargeHolcim say Geocycle has been utilising the cement kiln of its Chhatak plant in Sunamganj to dispose of various types of hazardous and non-hazardous waste generated from the different leading oil and gas, pharmaceutical, agro product, food and consumer goods companies.
It has managed a wide range of waste streams, including off-spec consumer products, contaminated packaging materials, expired chemically-treated seeds, contaminated soil, effluent treatment plant (ETP) sludge of textile and other industries, used oil, expired or off-spec medicine, and sorted municipal solid waste and plastics.
Geocycle Bangladesh strictly implements the Holcim Group standards for the co-processing of waste in alignment with international standards. This prohibits the use of materials that pose either health or environmental risks.
Kaushik Mukherjee, head of Geocycle Bangladesh, said "We have invested Tk35 crore in setting up the state-of-the-art waste management facility. This ensures adequate storage, safe handling, globally recognised pre-processing, and environment-friendly disposal through co-processing."
"We only dispose of the waste that has no recycling value," he added.
LHBL is keen to play an active role in creating a zero-waste future in Bangladesh through its Geocycle project. Currently, this is the only sustainable waste management facility in Bangladesh approved by the Department of Environment (DoE).
In the last week of July, The Business Standard correspondent visited LafargeHolcim's factory in Sunamganj, which is 270 kilometres away from Dhaka, and saw many loaded trucks with old paper, medical waste, glass, plastic, small metal, mini packs of poly, and other types of waste are entering to the factory.
These wastes are automatically sorted from trucks directly to the plant. Different types of waste are crushed in three stages by automatic shorting. Finally, the waste is burnt in the fiery furnace in the kiln of the cement plant.
The facilities along with the trained staff and platform operators provide an end-to-end, tailor-made waste management solution to the partner industries.
The alternative fuel feeding system at Chhatak Plant is one of a kind facility in the country with a complete in-house waste pre-processing platform for the blending and homogenisation of various categories of waste streams. Automated waste handling and feeding systems ensure minimal human intervention during waste disposal.
Geocycle is the leading provider of industrial, agricultural, and municipal waste management services globally and currently operates in 50 countries that apply the proven technology of "co-processing" and utilise existing facilities in the cement industry to resolve waste challenges sustainably.
Geocycle manages more than 10 million tonnes of waste annually worldwide, thus making a tangible contribution to bringing society a step closer to a zero-waste future.