Turning waste into cement.

AcuComm has covered several projects in the Middle East recently which seek to make use of waste more directly than simply burning it to generate electricity. The three projects below all turn waste – be it municipal or industrial – into fuel which is then used as an alternative source of energy in nearby industrial plants; cement works, in all three cases here. Two of the projects convert waste into RDF (refuse derived fuel), while one converts it to various forms of biofuel.

On 18th April 2019, Geocycle Egypt Company, a member of Lafarge Holcim group, officially opened a new biofuel plant in Ain Sokhna, Suez governorate, Egypt. This will convert agricultural, industrial and municipal waste into various types of biofuel, including diesel, mazut and gas, for use in the company’s nearby cement works, replacing existing fuel sources. It has capacity to produce 400,000 tonnes annually of alternative fuel. According to the company, the facility is equipped with cutting-edge technologies and is the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The total cost of the project amounted to E£200 million.

In Iraq, a facility is currently under construction in the northern city of Suleymaniyah. This uses mechanical/biological treatment to create RDF from municipal and construction waste. It is being constructed by the Faruk Group, which will then use the RDF to partially power its own cement works. The plant is designed for an annual throughput capacity of 380,000 tonnes. It will be in operation seven days a week with two operation shifts and one cleaning and maintenance shift per day. The plant will use equipment from Eggersmann Recycling Technology, and is expected to become operational by the end of 2019.

A similar project was announced in April 2018 in the United Arab Emirates. This will create RDF from municipal waste in Umm Al Quwain Emirate, to be used in various cement works in the country. In December 2018, Pioneer Cement Industries, a subsidiary of Oman’s largest cement manufacturer, Raysut Cement, reported that it has signed an agreement with Emirates RDF to be one of the first cement plants in the region to use RDF in its production plant. On 3rd May 2019, Griffin Refineries, the project’s sponsor, announced that it has reached financial close for the project. Construction will start in May 2019, with operations due to commence from September 2020.

All three projects neatly illustrate how waste can be more than a problem to be solved, and instead a resource which can be exploited. All things being equal it certainly can be a problem; rapid economic and demographic growth can lead to a waste management crisis in urban areas not previously equipped to deal with it, other than by the most rudimentary means. Modernisation and expansion of landfill is an option but is not particularly productive; all right if you see waste as a problem but not an opportunity. WtE incineration, the other potentially popular option, generates only an indirect benefit through boosting power to the grid and/or CHP heating. Neither is as compelling a plus in the hot, energy-rich Middle East as it is in, say, Scandinavia.

So, the creation of waste-powered fuel is a more immediate and direct financial benefit, and likely to appeal to those companies which need the fuel and public bodies alike. That a range of technologies and contractors are involved with these projects demonstrates both the demand and the various means by which fuels can be created. It also begins, in a small way, to wean Middle Eastern economies away from dependence on oil and gas, a long term aim of governments in the region.

Understanding the specific local needs of a country or region is key to deciding how best waste is likely to be profitable in that region. Another key need for growing Middle Eastern economies is fresh water, supplies of which are under increasing pressure. And here there is also waste-related investment. In 2013, Oman began looking at using MSW to generate electricity specifically to run a desalination plant. Feasibility studies conducted by Pöyry were begun in 2018. If they prove positive, Oman will then build its first WtE plant, spurred by a need not to generate electricity per se, but to provide fresh drinking water.

Waste Management Inc. to consolidate industry leadership.

North America’s leading provider of comprehensive waste management environmental services, Waste Management Inc., has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Florida-based Advanced Disposal Services, the fourth largest solid waste company in the United States, in a deal valued at US$4.9 billion.

With 2018 revenues of US$1.56 billion, adjusted EBITDA of US$427 million and approximately 6,000 employees, Advanced Disposal serves more than 3 million residential, commercial, and industrial customers, including over 800 municipalities primarily in 16 states in the Eastern half of the United States. Advanced Disposal’s solid waste network includes 94 collection operations, 73 transfer stations, 41 landfills, and 22 owned or operated recycling facilities.

Waste Management owns or operates 252 landfill sites, the largest network of landfills in North America with a total capacity of 5.0 billion tons. It also manages 314 waste transfer stations, operates 130 landfill gas-to-energy facilities and is a leading recycler of paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and metal, with 102 material recycling facilities (MRFs). As of the end of December 2018, the company had 43,700 full-time employees.

With Waste Management’s position within the US waste industry set to become more dominant through the acquisition, it remains to be seen if the US regulators will require divestments for competition-related reasons. With this possibility in mind, an opt-out clause to abandon the deal has been adopted which will trigger if the enforced divestments exceed US$200 million.

Global AD/Biogas

Anaerobic digestion/biogas is one area where we see a steady level of ongoing investment. These projects tend not to be very large in comparison with other areas of the waste industry, but represent a specialist and high tech niche within it. One advantage of AD/biogas projects is they are typically small and self-contained, and therefore quick to get up and running in comparison with other areas of the waste industry. For the projects in our database ,the average time to become operational is around 15 months.

Over the past year, AcuComm has reported on 151 such projects across the world. These have an average value of US$25 million, and an average throughput of 264 tonnes per day. Average power generation is 4 MW. Again, this is small when compared with the general waste-to-energy industry, but such localised generation is valuable to the farm or industrial site where it is based, either for re-use on-site or for being sold to the local electricity grid. Farm waste is the biggest area for investment, followed by sewage/wastewater projects.

AD 1

Investment is dominated by the Americas (principally the US) and Europe. These two regions account for nearly 90% of projects by value over the past year. Leading European countries for AD/biogas investment are the UK, Italy, Denmark, France and Ireland. Asia appears notably under-developed with only around 5% of the value.

AD 2

European companies predominate in terms of equipment supply and engineering services. The leading firm, in terms of the number of projects involved with, is Hitachi Zosen Inova, the Switzerland-based European subsidiary of Japan’s Hitachi Zosen. In second place is HoSt, based in the Netherlands. Other leading European companies include BioGTS (Finland), EnviTec Biogas (Germany) and Malmberg Gruppen (Sweden). The leading non-European company is Anaergia, based in Canada.

AcuComm adds more AD/biogas projects to its database each week. Check out the full latest information here.


Germany  – Construction of a sorting and recycling plant.

Operations start at SUEZ’s Ölbronn facility.
SUEZ has begun operations at its state-of-the-art sorting plant in Ölbronn, which according to the company, is Europe’s most modern sorting plant for light packaging. The project involved an investment of more than €30 million. The plant has a capacity of more than 100,000 tonnes per year.

Ghana – Construction of a waste-to-energy plant.

Development of a 100,000 tpa waste-to-energy facility in Accra.
Renergenc is planning to construct a €30.5 million waste-to-energy and recycling facility in Ablekuma-Joma, the Ga Central Municipality of Greater Accra. Renergenc has told AcuComm that the plant will process 100,000 tonnes per year of municipal solid waste. The company is currently obtaining the final licences to allow construction to start. The plant is due to be commissioned in 2021.

The persistence of landfill.

Amid all the talk of innovative recycling and waste sorting technologies, one fact can get lost; most of the world still disposes of most of its waste through landfill. And we’re not just talking about the developing world. In 2015, the latest year for which data is available, the USA sent 52.5% of its municipal solid waste to landfill, equal to 137.7 million tonnes. The amount landfilled rose slightly in 2015, from 136.2 million tonnes in 2014. The rate of recycling has barely changed since 2010, at around 26% of the total, while waste-to-energy is below 13%.

There’s a lot of investment in landfill. AcuComm currently has 344 active projects in the category, worth a total of US$6.6 billion, or US$21 million each on average. What landfill investments are there? Five main categories show up:

  • Typically the upgrading of unregulated dumping grounds to meet current environmental standards. This tends to be a major area of activity in developing countries, and is often a component of development project ativity funded by external agencies.
  • Straightforward expanding of existing landfill to accommodate extra waste.
  • Specialist waste. Building of discrete capability to handle waste types that are best landfilled; such as hazardous, chemical or other forms of industrial waste.
  • Landfill gas. Installation or expansion of gas engines in order to generate electricity.
  • Infrequently, work done to restore a closed landfill to a ‘greener’ use, such as parkland.

The majority deal either with modernisation/expansion of MSW landfill, or addition of gas facilities at existing sites. These account for 84% of the total landfill projects in the AcuComm database.

AC wk 16 pie


Where is the investment going? As might be expected, the USA figures strongly. For general MSW landfill projects, the USA accounts for 34 projects with an estimated total investment of US$587 million. This is equal to US$17 million on average and 22% of the total. For landfill gas projects, the preponderance of the USA is far greater; 71 projects, with an estimated US$1,061 million, equal to US$15 million on average and 62% of the total.

Other countries to feature heavily are Australia, Brazil, Canada, India and Russia. One thing all these countries share with the USA is vast land areas and generally low population densities. All things being equal, its far easier to live with landfill if there is plenty of room for it, away from anyone who might complain about the perceived inconvenience. Environmental pressures and tax incentives may be reducing the use of landfill in Europe, but for much of the wider world it remains the principal – and if properly managed the most credible – means of waste disposal.



Réunion – Waste Management Complex.

CNIM to head development consortium.
CNIM has been selected by ILEVA to head a consortium to develop a waste management complex which will treat 60% of the island’s waste and produce renewable electricity for more than 10,000 households. Commissioning is due by the end of 2022.

Brazil – Development of a corn-based ethanol production plant.

KATZEN International to design R$800 million facility.
KATZEN International has signed an agreement for the design of a corn-based ethanol production plant that will be located in Nova Mutum, Mato Grosso region. O + Participações has also signed an agreement with INPASA for the construction of the plant. Groundbreaking for the new facility began at the site during April and it is expected to start operations in the second half of 2020. The Ethanol SA Bioenergia plant will produce a minimum of 800,000 litres per day of fuel ethanol.

Fast Growth, Rising Waste Investment

Waste investments can be found in all sorts of places you might not expect. While the bulk of attention naturally focuses on the major developed economies, it may pay to glance occasionally elsewhere. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently released its latest economic GDP forecasts. The top fastest-growing countries for the 2019-2024 period are listed in the chart below, ranked by the value of new waste sector investment, as reported in the AcuComm database.

Almost all of these countries are classed as developing economies, with some still at a very low level of economic development. It’s only natural that these should register the highest growth levels. What’s perhaps more surprising is the amount of waste and related investment there is. Out of the top 25 countries, 17 have at least one project either in the planning or construction stage. There are 566 in total, valued at US$48.1 billion; a considerable sum of money.

Newsletter chart wk 15

China dominates the list with US$34.0 billion, around 71% of the value. While China’s GDP growth is slowing a little, the waste management sector remains huge, both in terms of its current size and potential. India, in second place, is faster-growing but at a lower level of development. Nevertheless, new waste projects in India are estimated at US$6.2 billion. Other countries where AcuComm lists new investments over US$500 million are the Philippines, Vietnam, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda and Ivory Coast.

There’s activity further down the list too. One recent example is Bhutan, where a comprehensive clinical waste programme was announced in January 2019, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Another is Uganda, where an anaerobic digestion plant at a sewage facility in Kampala neared completion in December 2018. Projects like this are not particularly large, but all need construction/engineering expertise and equipment, all of which will need to be imported.

Projects in developing countries often involve external funding agencies, such as the aforementioned ADB or its compatriot the African Development Bank (AfDB). The European Union is involved through a number of bodies, principally the European Investment Bank (EIB). The EIB is generally, though not exclusively, active in supporting projects in the less-well-off parts of Europe, whether in or out of the European Union. Recent part-funded projects include the establishment of new WtE, landfill and recycling facilities in Serbia, modern landfill in Armenia, and improvement of landfill and waste management expertise in Kyrgyzstan. You can see the full list here.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an even bigger lender. AcuComm lists around 100 projects with EBRD involvement. It is not an EU agency, although it sometimes works in tandem with the EIB. It tends to concentrate on supporting projects in eastern Europe and the former USSR, often in countries or regions with little prior experience of modern waste management.

Working in developing countries attracts risk, of course, and it is likely that not all the projects in the table above will come to fruition. Reliable funding is an issue, but there are challenges to be overcome even when cash is provided by an external donor. Bureaucracy is one, when dealing with funding agencies and local government agencies alike. Developing countries are less likely to have had time to establish the management structures and experience needed to progress a major project, and indeed strengthening such capacity is often a key element of donor-funded projects. A country’s climate or power/water infrastructure may present challenges not found in western Europe or north America. Finally, there can be political difficulties regarding the sustainability or even the desirability of major investments in developing countries.

And yet… for all that, US$48.1 billion is a lot of money. It’s a sign that attention is being paid to global opportunities, as countries grow wealthier, and in need of – and able to afford – modern waste infrastructure.

Currently Trending: Ethanol, MBT and Plastic Recycling facilities.

US$2,799 million worth of projects were covered by our researchers last week, including 19 new projects and 27 updates.

The top waste trends included:

Click on the above trends to access a real-time project search in the AcuComm database.


Canada  – Organic waste treatment centres and biogas facility.

SUEZ selected for Saint-Laurent facility.
Ville de Montreal is planning to carry out a project to create organic waste treatment centres (OWTC) in Greater Montréal including the construction of two composting centres, two biogas facilities and a pilot pre-treatment centre. On 17th April 2019, SUEZ reported that the City has selected it to design, build and operate the first OWTC in Saint-Laurent that can process up to 50,000 tonnes of organic material each year.

Egypt – Waste-to-RDF facility.

Development of a 400,000 tpa waste-to-RDF facility.
Geocycle Egypt Company, a member of Lafarge Holcim group, has officially opened a facility in Ain Sokhna, Suez governorate, that converts non-hazardous waste into high-quality refuse-derived fuel. It has a capacity to produce 400,000 tonnes annually of alternative fuel. According to the company, the facility is the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The total cost of the project amounted to E£200 million.