In addition to addressing the issues of dust and noise, HeidelbergCement faces a challenge in terms of the air pollutant emissions of the cement business line. While dust and noise are emitted from different points in the production process, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and other air pollutants are mainly emitted from kilns. There are national legal limits that have to be observed by all production locations.
HeidelbergCement has also pledged to reduce air pollutants as part of its Sustainability Commitments 2030. By 2030, we further aim to reduce the SOX and NOX emissions generated in our cement production by 40% and dust emissions by 80% – in comparison with 2008 – as well as continuously reducing all other air pollutant emissions, bringing them below the industry average.
Reduction of specific emissions (g/t clinker)
We monitor emissions of air pollutants on an ongoing basis. By using new filter technologies and innovative production processes, we reduce pollutants and thus mitigate the impact of our activities on the environment and neighbouring communities
We comply with stringent environmental regulations to ensure that our raw material quarrying will not endanger local bodies of surface water and ground water resources.
Water use in the production processes and water resource protection
Water is hugely important for our production processes and is used, for example, when washing gravel and sand as well as for cooling or cleaning transport vehicles. Water is also one of the source materials for concrete manufacturing and becomes part of the building material during its production.
We obtain some of the water we use from the public water supply, but the majority comes from the groundwater or from rivers and lakes. Withdrawals from groundwater and surface waters are heavily regulated by governments worldwide and regularly monitored. Some of the water – the water used for cooling, for instance – evaporates and is released into the atmosphere. The remaining industrial water from production is returned to the surface water after being cleaned and subjected to stringent checks. The cleaning water that accumulates when transport vehicles are washed is recycled completely.
We dispose of the domestic wastewater accruing at our company buildings via the municipal wastewater systems. At all of our quarries, we collect any surface water that has accumulated and remove it in a way that ensures there is no pollution or flooding of the quarry site or the surrounding area. No water is channeled into existing surface waters in the area without previous approval from the local authorities. Regular training sessions for our employees and external controls ensure that the mandatory procedures are adhered to.
During all of these processes, we continuously strive to prevent pollution. As the production process in quarries and gravel pits does not chemically alter the water that is used there, these sites contain no pollutants.
Specific water consumption for aggregates (l(t)
Specific water consumption for cement (l/t)
Specific water consumption for ready-mixed concrete (l/m³)
In recent years, we have introduced a water reporting system at all of our company’s cement plants.
The specific water consumption amounted to 265.9 litres per tonne of cement in 2021. We work continuously to reduce our water consumption, for example, by switching to closed cooling circuits. We have therefore also started to introduce measurement systems and key figures on water reporting in our aggregates and ready-mixed concrete business lines. Key figures were consolidated and reported on Group level for the first time in 2021.
Based on a global water-risk study, we have drawn up a Group-wide guideline concerning sustainable water management in the cement, aggregates, and ready-mixed concrete business lines. To do this, we made use of the World Resources Institute’s online Aqueduct database, which provides information on water risks worldwide. For 2021, the study shows that around 38% of our plants are located in regions where water scarcity is projected for 2030. There were no significant changes compared with 2020.
Back in 2015, in response to the first water-risk study, we began developing individual water management plans for those plants in regions suffering from water scarcity. The plans include concepts and measures to ensure careful use of scarce water resources and enable local stake holders to become involved so that the water utilisation concepts support the common good and thus minimise local water risks. Implementation of these plans will begin at those locations where water scarcity is an especially urgent problem. These activities were continued in 2021 and will be expanded over the next few years.
Our objective is to have water management plans in place by 2030 for all plants in regions affected by water scarcity. Alongside this process, we are developing a global strategic water reduction plan, which aims to coordinate the work at Grouplevel and reduce water consumption locally, wherever economically and technically possible. Because we are facing a water surplus in other regions of the world, where we need to pump off large quantities of water in order to operate our quarries, it does not make sense to define a general reduction target based on water withdrawals for the Group.
Our primary focus in terms of waste management concerns the kiln dust that is a by-product of clinker production. This dust has to be removed from the kiln systems at several facilities in order to prevent disruptions to proper kiln operations. We generally use the kiln dust as an alternative raw material in cement production, thereby improving our ecological efficiency.
HeidelbergCement requires land for its core business activities. Land represents a significant asset in the HeidelbergCement Group, comprising both a physical location at which business activities are undertaken and a source of raw material supply to support the majority of those activities. A responsible land use policy establishes the principles that HeidelbergCement follows in respect of land management and directly supports our Sustainability Commitments 2030.