Sustainability In The Cement Industry

The cement industry requires long-term vision; the construction and operation of cement plants necessitate unique infrastructures both in terms of the construction methods and the substantial costs involved in the construction of the production plants, and in terms of the operations, requiring access to natural raw materials and energy.

The global cement industry recognizes these needs and understands that as a natural resource-consuming industry it is compelled to tackle environmental challenges. Moreover, the cement industry is a strategic industry, since states are interested in building infrastructures, such as roads, drainage and sewage systems, free from dependence on other states, and therefore there is an ongoing effort being made to hold on to local cement industries and to integrate them into the industrial fabric of the country.

This being said, besides being a sizable consumer of natural resources, this industry is also ideally positioned to give back to the state by dealing with national challenges, such as waste treatment and the use of alternative fuels as well as handling fuel-contaminated soil, used as alternative raw materials.

Nesher participates in various international initiatives aimed at promoting  sustainable development. One of the main such initiatives is that of the WBCSD organization. Nesher, in collaboration with CRH, participates in the international Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI), which incorporates 24 of the world’s largest cement manufacturers. These companies, some multi-national and others local, account for about one third of the world’s cement production.

CSI aims to provide cement companies with a framework forsocial and environmental involvement. The organization also investigates how sustainable development comes into play in cement companies, and identifies the actions and measures these companies should take, both as a group and individually, in order to accelerate their progress toward sustainable development. The organization has defined five main criteria for sustainability-related activity: CO2 and climate protection, Responsible use of fuels and raw materials; Employee health and safety; Emissions monitoring and reduction; local impacts on land and communities, water impact management and sustainability with concrete.


Sustainable Resource Management

Nesher’s environmental policy is based on the principles of the industrial ecology approach, which studies the materials and energy that constitute a part of the industrial manufacturing process. Industrial ecology deals with shifting away from a linear industrial process, in which resources and capital pass through the production chain and eventually end up as waste – toward a closed-circuit system, in which waste can be used as an input for new production processes.

Nesher uses byproducts from other industries as both fuel substitutes and raw material substitutes, and currently replaces 12.6% of the natural raw materials with alternative ones,. Nesher continues to seek sources for alternative raw materials, and as of Q4/2010 has begun to take in limestone, which is a byproduct of the water softening process at the Israel Electric Corporation’s Gezer power plant. Another alternative for limestone was found within the plant itself: and existing waste from the Ramla plant were returned into the cement manufacturing process.In addition, Nesher makes use of marginal water as a substitute for freshwater wherever possible. Today the company uses wastewater to wet roads and prevent dust.


Alternative Raw Materials

The cement industry is based on mining raw materials, namely stone and clay, and turning them into cement. Nesher mines its main raw material from quarries near its plants.

Reduction of the quarries’ environmental impacts  and their rehabilitation are part of the main challenges the global cement industry is grappling with; these require a broad perspective and long-term vision.

To this end, in an attempt to reduce the mining of (virgin) raw materials from  quarries, Nesher incorporates alternative materials in its cement production – materials which reduce the demand for quarried raw materials. The alternative raw materials are mostly byproducts from other industries, such as coal fly ash from the Israel Electric Corporation’s power station used in the production of clinker and as a clinker substitute; industrially produced gypsum as an alternative for natural gypsum; and soils polluted with fuels as a substitute for the clays. The integration of the alternative materials in the production process does not impact the quality of the end-product produced.


Energy and Alternative Fuels

Industrial activity is not possible without using energy. The cement industry is a large-scale energy consumer, and therefore the reduction and optimization of energy consumption are some of the greater challenges facing this industry. Nesher invests considerable resources in the search for alternative energy to ensure the company’s future.

Nesher has set itself two main goals in this area:

Improvement of manufacturing technologies: In 2006 a new cement mill began operations – one of the most advanced and efficient in the world, saving about 20% in electricity consumption (for further details, see the environmental responsibility report, 2006).
Increasing the utilization of alternative fuels as alternative energy sources: Currently, the use of alternative fuels  amounts to about 8% (calculated by GJ), and Nesher aims to considerably increase this ingredient of the fuel mix in the coming year, to a target of about 20% by the end of 2016.

Waste To Energy

The demographic growth and the rise in the standard of living have, in recent decades, brought about a substantial increase in the quantities of waste produced worldwide. In Israel, the amounts of waste produced increase at an annual rate of 3%-5%. Despite Israel’s small size, large areas are wasted on land filling these vast amounts of waste. Proper handling of the waste and reduction of the quantities produced are vital to protecting the environment and our quality of life, but there is no single optimal solution for the waste problem. Around the world, the “integrated waste management” method is applied, consisting of five elements. The policy adopted by the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection regarding waste management is to turn waste from a nuisance into a resource and to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills.

The waste management hierarchy, as defined by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, is as follows: Minimization at the source – reducing the quantity and toxicity of waste in order to reduce the volume of waste produced; Reuse – collection of products for reuse after they have been used; Recycling – removing materials from the waste stream and using them as raw materials for the production of new products; Energy recovery– a variety of methods for exploiting materials within the waste to generate energy, such as RDF – Refuse Derived Fuel, gasification, plasma etc.; and landfilling of the remaining waste.

Of these five elements, landfilling is the only method which does not make use of waste as a resource, and therefore regarded as the worst solution. Since this is still the most common waste management method in Israel, many efforts are being made to promote the other elements of the integrated management.


 RDF Technology

Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), is processed fuel that is generated from industrial and urban waste with a high calorific value. In order to produce it, materials which may impede or harm the production process, such as hazardous material, metals, glass and wet waste, are removed from the waste stream. The remaining waste (paper, cardboard, plastics, plastic bags etc.) is dried and shredded and can then be used as a fuel for various installations. The use of RDF is very common and it serves as a feed material for many cement plants worldwide.

This method of waste management is accepted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. As opposed to standard waste incineration, the use of waste as a source of energy in cement kilns prevents emission of organic pollutants thanks to the prolonged residence time in the kiln, the high temperature and excess oxygen. The direct contact between the flame and the raw material ensures that inorganic pollutants are not emitted either, since they are fused with the clinker.

Nesher’s use of sorted waste will yield several environmental benefits: saving on landfill areas through reduction of the amounts of waste sent to landfills, reduction of the amount of fossil fuels consumed at Nesher, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, controlled incineration of waste rather than its landfilling, and the creation of a separation and sorting system for mixed waste. Organic waste will be transferred to a composting facility and the RDF will be sent to Nesher.

In 2014 Nesher completed a large-scale NIS 65 million project that includes a new refuse-derived fuel (RDF) feeding facility in its Ramla plant. The RDF plant allows Nesher to use energy from urban and industrial waste with high calorific value as a firing material in cement kilns. This world-class recycling and reuse project earned the company the Industry in the Environment 2015 award in the contest initiated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) and the Manufacturers Association of Israel.



The cement industry has considerable ability to impact the environment, since limestone quarries remain in production for decades. Nesher is working to accomplish optimal management of the environmental impacts that may arise from the quarry activity, such as noise and dust.

Proper planning of the quarry at the setup stage enables reduction of the environmental impacts, and indeed the Ramla quarry was planned from the start to reduce these impacts. Thus, for example, the mining focuses on digging and descending vertically  without using explosives. Also, artificial earth ramps have been built around the quarry to heights of ten meters or more, on which trees have been planted to blend into the natural vegetation and landscape. These activities significantly reduce the negative impact on the environment and the landscape.

Nesher, like any other quarry owner in Israel, pays a certain percentage of every quarried ton to the quarry rehabilitation fund.
The State of Israel assists in the rehabilitation of quarries at the end of their useful life through the quarry rehabilitation fund. The fund was established in 1978, in order to solve the problems caused by quarries at the end of their useful life, by collecting funds during the quarry’s lifetimes, and returning these funds to its owners when the quarry shuts down, to be used for its rehabilitation.



Water is a resource in short supply worldwide. Israel is an arid country, and its cumulative water deficit has been exacerbating over the years. Consumption of water in Israel is divided into three main uses: domestic, industrial and agricultural. The old methods of cement production, using wet kilns, consumed huge amounts of water. The transition of the Nesher Ramla plant in 1999 to cement production using the dry process, resulted in a dramatic reduction in water consumption. At the Ramla and Haifa Nesher plants, water is used to cool the air in cooling towers, to cool the cement in the cement mills and to wet roads in order to prevent dust and for sanitary purposes. As a result, the Nesher plants do not produce any industrial wastewater – only sanitary sewage. This sewage is transferred for procxessing in the municipal sewage treatment system.

The transition to a dry production line in the Ramla plant brought about huge savings in water consumption. However, some water is still used in the production process, mostly for cooling and for wetting roads to prevent dust. Actions are being taken at all Nesher plants to reduce water consumption in general, and freshwater consumption in particular. During 2014 Nesher used about 83K cubic meters of wastewater to wet the quarry as an alternative to using freshwater. At the Nesher plant in Haifa, about 4% of the water consumption was non-freshwater.


Air Quality

Nesher takes all the necessary measures to comply with emission standards requirements and allocates considerable resources to prevent air emissions.

Air pollution is a general term for the addition to the air of chemical substances that are not naturally found in it and may endanger humans and the environment. Some are derived from of natural sources and phenomena (such as dust stroms), while others are the result of human activity such as industrial and agricultural activities, energy production, and transportation. There are two types of air pollutants: gases, such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides etc.; and particulate matter from dust, industrial grinding products, or products of incomplete combustion from transportation such as soot and lead compounds.

All Nesher’s production facilities are equipped with state of the art systems for controlling particulate matter which might otherwise be emitted from the production process. Most of the air pollutants emitted in the combustion process are eliminated within the cement kilns.

For more information on air emissions, see the Nesher Corporate Responsibility report and the Ministry of Environmental Protection PRTR site.


Reducing Greenhouse Gases

As an industry leader in the area of environmental responsibility, Nesher considers the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to be a key aspect of its environmental policy. In addition to investment in various  currently implemented voluntary projects for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Nesher also invests considerable means and efforts in developing and implementing future projects.

Reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is a challenge to the entire global cement industry, which is considered to be an energy-intensive industry. The cement production process is responsible for 5% to 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic sources.


The production of clinker, an essential stage in cement manufacturing, is a process with significant environmental impacts due to its high energy consumption and consequent emissions, as well as to greenhouse emissions. Approximately 60% of greenhouse gas emissions derive from the processes involved in converting limestone to clinker while 30% derive from other greenhouse gas emissions from fuel combustion. The remaining 10% of greenhouse gas emissions derive from electricity consumption required for the process of moving and grinding of raw materials and the finished products.

In order to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions the cement industry exerts every effort to find technological solutions to enable the use of alternative raw materials in cement production, such as by-products of various industries without affecting the quality of the finished product (European standards allow for the production of different cement types differentiated by strength and components).

Slag cement is an example of a reduced clinker cement. One of the Company’s internal stated goals is to produce cement with an average clinker content of 70% by 2025 (compared to 81% today).

Environmental performance with regard to greenhouse gas  emissions are measured both based on the normalization per ton of clinker, and on a ton of cement (equivalent) and a ton of cementitious materials. Nesher is one of the world’s leading companies with regard to performance measured according to clinker production, which indicates the highest level of energy efficiency.

This measure is expected to improve in the coming years with the use of alternative fuels, including biomass components (that are carbon nuetral). Due to the demand of the local concrete industry for cement with a high clinker content, compared to typical European cement, greenhouse gas emission emissions per ton of cement or cementitious material are slightly higher than  EU levels. Nesher, along with its customers, are working on ways to gradually reduce the clinker content in its products.