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Analysing industrial symbiosis implementation in European cement industry: an applied life cycle assessment perspective

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In the last 20 years, the implementation of industrial symbiosis (IS) has gained notoriety in the international context since it can create positive environmental, economic and social impacts. The literature suggests that the primary, extraction and conversion sectors are those with the highest potential for IS implementation. Among them, the cement industry has been recognized as an important sector due to its high potential to incorporate alternative resources in its production process. Nevertheless, this industrial sector is also characterised by its significant environmental impact; for this reason, it is necessary to evaluate the influence that circular business models, such as IS, can bring to this sector.


This study defined a set of scenarios for the implementation of IS in European industry based on literature review and expert consultation. A life cycle assessment–based analytical framework is developed to evaluate the impact of those measures in this sector. Lastly, a viability study dedicated to these scenarios was performed.


Results showed that IS implementation managed to produce a net positive impact, with a 6 to 12% GHG emission reduction being observed. Depending on the approach to biogenic carbon, industrial targets for 2030 can produce a reduction of either 80 kg or 39 kg of CO2 per tonne of cement.


IS implementation effectively reduces GHG emissions, albeit at a relatively smaller scale when compared with the overall emissions from cement manufacturing. The approach to biogenic carbon emissions poses a challenge, as the use (or omission) of these emissions affect the results substantially. Depending on the approach to biogenic carbon, 2030 objectives are either overachieved or underachieved.

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Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study. All the data used was obtained from publicly available datasets.


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This research was partially funded by the c5Lab, Sustainable Construction Materials Association, through the POR Centro and POR Lisboa (CENTRO-04–3559-FSE-000096 and LISBOA-05-3559-FSE-000008, respectively).

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Correspondence to Francisco Capucha.

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Capucha, F., Henriques, J., Ferrão, P. et al. Analysing industrial symbiosis implementation in European cement industry: an applied life cycle assessment perspective. Int J Life Cycle Assess 28, 516–535 (2023).

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