Cement makers fry chickens

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The Independent Online

Diseased Belgian chickens and soiled French nappies are the sort of things most people wouldn't touch with a bargepole, but the world's cement makers can't wait to get their hands on them.

Diseased Belgian chickens and soiled French nappies are the sort of things most people wouldn't touch with a bargepole, but the world's cement makers can't wait to get their hands on them.

The soaring price of crude oil has put many fuel-guzzling industries under pressure, and few more so than the cement industry, which is churning out the second-most consumed commodity after water. The manufacturing process involves kilns the size of football pitches and 2,000-centigrade heat.

To maintain that temperature, the cement industry is forced to burn millions of gallons of oil a day, but companies including Blue Circle, Lafarge and Holderbank are hoping to slash their cost base by using "alternative" fuels.

When the Belgian government found poisonous dioxin in poultry and decided to destroy 60,000 tons of chicken, local cement makers were happy to take the carcasses off their hands. The move saved the state the huge cost of disposal and saved the cement makers several days' worth of fuel bills.

The industry is now getting the idea that it can save a fortune just by collecting everyone's unwanted rubbish. In France, companies are encouraging families to give them used nappies.

However, Lafarge probably gets the prize for the most innovative scrap-seeker. At its plant in the French alps, it finds it can make up almost 50 per cent of its fuel by burning broken skis.

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