Cement is a huge polluter. Here’s how the industry is tackling the problem

While cement is incredibly versatile, the relatively cheap building material comes with a huge downside: it’s a massive greenhouse gas emitter. In fact, it’s responsible for about 8 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter in the world after China and the United States. The cement industry is aware of this and has started responding to growing pressure to make their building material more climate-friendly.

One of the most promising technologies that will help the cement industry clean up its act is carbon capture and storage (CCS). Germany cement company HeidelbergCement is using CCS to create what is being billed the world’s first carbon-free cement plant, which will be fully operational by 2024. The plant will use waste-based alternative fuels to operate and create cement, with all CO2 being captured and injected underground.

While this is promising, some within the industry are asking what else can be done with carbon other than injecting it underground? A research team from UCLA may have the answer as they are developing a method of using carbon dioxide emissions to produce cement-like building materials, which they claim is nearly carbon-neutral. Another way researchers are lowering the environmental impact of cement is by adding vegetable particles to concrete while reducing the amount of cement in the mix.

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