Already well known for solving problems and filling gaps through innovative and high-quality private sector investment, Faruk Holding is pushing the boundaries once again. Sulaimani Governorate produces hundreds of tons of garbage daily, as Sulaimani grows, it begins to create environmental strain on the city. Landfills, scattered around the outskirts of the city, require massive areas—and in some cases, such as in Tanjaro in the city’s south, urban expansion is nearing the dumpsites. They release gases, which pollute the city’s air; they pose major fire hazards; and, even as the city is dependent on its aquifers for fresh water, pollute the city’s groundwater. Surprising then, that in this refuse, Lafarge and FH find opportunity.

Lafarge and Faruk Holding’s major cement plants in Sulaimani —Bazian, Tasluja, and Gasin Cement Company— require tons of fuel for clinker production. The precalciner and the Kiln are operated at around 1,400 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, refuse-derived fuel (RDF)—dried, shredded garbage, essentially—can be used efficiently to fuel the chambers, and is burned so hot that carbon emissions are diminished. The pro- cess produces less smoke and pollution than typical burning of trash, and less CO2 than the heavy oil that currently fuels the cement plants.

The RDF plant, operated by Ecocem/ Environmental Solution Limited, a company established by Faruk Holding and Lafarge Industrial Ecology, will be based in Tanjaro, just south of Sulaimani. Municipal solid waste trucks will drop off roughly one thousand tons of waste per day to the plant. The waste is then sorted, and 3-5% of the waste, primarily scrap metal and plastic, is removed to be recycled. Water comprises roughly half of the waste. To dry the waste sufficiently to be used in the precalciner, Ecocem will employ bacteria in a process of bio drying, which will heat and dry the trash. Unusable trash will be separated and sent to a landfill, and the dried, shredded RDF will be trucked to the cement plants. All in all, only 12-20% of the original trash delivered to Ecocem will be returned to a landfill. The rest will go on to productive uses; even the moisture removed will be purified for reuse.

Faruk Holding and Lafarge hope to have the whole operation running smoothly by the end of 2015, and have aspirations to eventually run their plants primarily on RDF. As Sulaimani grows, economically and industrially, as well as demographically, its production of waste is predicted to grow in kind. A parallel expansion of RDF use is built into the Ecocem contract. Ecocem holds a 20-year renewable contract with the Slemani municipality to consume 1,000 tons of garbage per day, with 3% annual increases. This represents over 40% of Sulaimani’s total current waste production, and there is ample room for expansion. In the first year, Ecocem plans to produce, from its total waste, 130,000 tons of RDF, which covers roughly 25% of Lafarge/Faruk Holding’s cement plants’ fuel needs. As Faruk Holding and Lafarge push towards their goal to power their plants entirely from RDF, much more RDF will be produced, and much more waste recycled.

The project benefits everyone involved. By producing their own fuel rather than depending on oil suppliers, Faruk Holding and Lafarge not only improve the predictability and independence of their cement plants, but they will also lower operational costs through cheaper fuel supply. Much more importantly, however, is the impact the project will have on Sulaimani’s environment and society. Groundwater will be cleaner, soil will be more productive for agricultural purposes, the air will be fresher, and the city will be more secure as landfill fires diminish. While heavy industry and environmental improvement often seem at odds with one another, Ecocem demonstrates that synergies between the two can be found—to the benefit of communities as well as balance sheets.