As the world turns its attention towards the climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, it is important to remember that sustainable energy solutions already exist. Here is one example from China.

Sustainable development and social responsibility are at the core of the Chinese government’s current 5-year plan, and Holcim expects that they will be even more prominently represented in next year’s 5-year plan. Holcim, together with its Chinese partner Huaxin, also places great importance on these issues.

Huaxin’s environmental protection business unit contributes to the circular economy by converting certain industrial and municipal wastes into fuels and raw materials for cement production. In this way, Huaxin is able to substitute part of its coal consumption and can therefore preserve precious natural resources. Holcim is involved with the Chinese government in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate task force, and engages with international organizations to help China develop environmentally-sound and safe practices.

Efforts to this end include following strict guidelines and policies on the use of waste materials in the clinker manufacturing process. Huaxin and Holcim are playing a key role in assisting governments to develop national and international guidelines and standards for co-processing. In China, Holcim has provided a great deal of input into the ‘Guidelines for Co-processing of Hazardous Wastes in Cement Kilns.’ This Sino-Norwegian project is under the responsibility of the Chinese Research Academy for Environmental Sciences and aims to regulate large-scale, environmentally sound management of hazardous waste disposal in cement kilns in order to strengthen the Chinese implementation of the Stockholm Convention and Basel Convention. Holcim’s and Huaxin’s work doesn’t stop there.

China is the world’s largest producer of pesticides, and the disposal of obsolete pesticides and their packaging constitutes a potential risk for people and the environment. Under the umbrella of the Sino-German project on ‘Management of obsolete pesticides,’ GTZ, Holcim and Huaxin formed a public-private partnership. Huaxin provides a waste management service through co-processing of obsolete pesticides in modern cement kilns.

High temperatures and long residence times ensure the complete and safe destruction of toxic chemicals. Thanks to its vast experience in the treatment of (sometimes hazardous) waste, Holcim is able to ensure that the disposal of this waste is carried out in an environmentally sound manner, and that relevant occupational health and safety issues are properly considered and managed. In total, Huaxin has disposed of around 1,500 metric tons of obsolete pesticides without compromising either the safety of workers and local communities or the quality of the clinker produced.

Article originally published in the November 2010 edition of Sustain, the magazine of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.