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Bioeconomy and Resource Efficiency: the European agenda offers opportunities to be grabbed

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The art of marketing lies often in the ability to grab an opportunity. It also consists in the ingenuity to turn a weakness into a strength. In both instances speed is of essence.

Examples in industries involved in the construction sector abound. Wood, for example, was able to seize the opportunity offered by the climate change issue and forests as sinks ending up with a simple solution: use more wood. In the same sector, the waste from saw mills – potentially a problem – is now reused in trigeneration schemes with the label "green, renewable energy and no waste". Such opportunities are also to be seized by the cement / concrete industry when they appear. At the moment, the European agenda offers two topics on which this industry ought to position and profile itself.

In its Communication “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe COM(2012) 60” published on 13 February 2012, the European Commission calls for the development of a European bioeconomy. On the one hand, it may well be that this approach could divert biomass, especially in waste materials, from co-processing to biofuels. On the other hand, however, the call from the Commission and the stress on the use of waste offers a new opportunity for the cement industry to position co-processing as part of the move towards a bioeconomy.

The other chance not to be missed is the European Commission’s programme on Resource Efficiency. A milestone report by Mckinsey”, which advocates higher productivity in the use of resources, is exercising a strong intellectual influence upon EU policy makers. It provides lessons to be learnt especially in the construction industry where materials such as concrete are seen as carrying a heavy backpack of resources. In the search for more resource productivity in construction materials, there will be winners and losers.  With high strength steel, for example, the steel industry has chosen on which side it wants to be: the use of high strength steel is reducing the weight of steel columns and beams by 19 to 32% with reinforcing bars that weigh 30% less than conventional ones. This could potentially lead to a saving of 105 million tonnes of steel in 2030, a reduction of 9% worldwide.

The cement / concrete industry will not be left untouched. Now is the time to ask ourselves what actions should be taken for our industry to be on the winner’s side.