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General objectives

The general objective of the DIAVAL project is to transform the diabase mud (fig.1) from waste to secondary raw material for the production of innovative binders and, hence, of marketable pre-casted building materials. Towards this end, the scope of our work will be to setup a pilot production line at the facilities of LATOMIA PHARMAKAS PLC for producing innovative building materials from waste diabase mud, based on the innovative technology of geopolymerisation. The geopolymerisation technology includes the mixing of an aluminosilicate raw material with an alkaline activator resulting to materials similar to cement-based products. The generated products will be mainly pre-casted building blocks (e.g. flooring slabs) and they are known (Machiels et al., 2017) to acquire properties similar to or better than traditional market substitutes. The pilot products will be evaluated in terms of physicochemical and mechanical properties, as well as financial cost, to allow for their full market potential and uptake within 2 years after the end of the project. The objectives of the proposed research are in full agreement with the strategic objectives of the RPF RESTART 2016-2020 Programme, which specifically states as a priority area the “Building Environment and Infrastructure” and mainly in Part C: Organization and Management of Building and Infrastructure Production” (Indicative fields: use of building materials with high added value, reduction of resource consumption, reduction of environmental impact and increase of reuse of available resources). Since the target is the development of an innovative building material by utilizing a waste from the concrete production, the proposed innovative production line will:

  1. Reduce resource consumption, by utilising secondary raw materials, and by substituting natural resources;
  2. Reduce environmental impact, by reducing the land-footprint of the company, by eliminating a source of airborne dust, and by indirectly reducing a source of CO2, since concrete production can be substituted by a new geopolymer binder product;
  3. Increase the reuse of available resources, by reusing the already extracted diabase which has ended as waste in a temporary landfill;
  4. Encourage the use of pre-casted building materials with high added value, by proposing new building materials that are known to have improved mechanical properties in contrast to Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC).

The abovementioned advantages will be efficiently combined in the production of additional products for the existing Cypriot and EU market. The management of Industrial Waste (IW) in Cyprus faces several challenges and appears to be underperforming, despite the fact that a comprehensive legislative framework concerning the management of waste is in place since 2011 (with several new legislation, regulations and amendments following up since then). Cement and aggregates producing industry follows the Construction Market, and according to Bio et al. (2015), the Cypriot market has been constantly declining from 2011 to 2015. Despite the negative outlook for 2016, the ECSO (2018) has demonstrated a clearly increasing trend, since 2016. In addition, oral communications with market actors, and the market experienced employees of the company, demonstrate that the uplifting trend is carrying on in 2017 and 2018.

In this specific project, the aching problem that requires an efficient solution is the accumulation of diabase mud as residue from the regular production operations (aggregates and ready-mix concrete production) of the company. More specifically, the diabase mud is generated, as shown in Fig. 2, from the crushing procedure and after the washing of the aggregates. The washing results in the creation of a mud with a solid fraction, which is lower than 0.063 mm in size. Apart from the low fraction, this mud has a humidity content of almost 30%, rendering it an “inappropriate raw material” for the cement and concrete industry (which requires dry materials for feedstock). The LATOMIA PHARAMAKAS PLC plant has an annual production of diabase mud near 25000 tn, which is disposed of in a landfill close to the production facilities of the company.

According to the EU legislation, the diabase mud (as an industrial waste) should be recycled instead of disposed of in landfills. Up to 2012 this type of IW (from now on Industrial waste) had not even been registered in the Cyprus National Report. Given that there is no national regulation or targets for the IW in Cyprus, the state has not yet dealt with the problem and the waste are piling up. Apart from that, there is not enough space in the facilities of the company for temporary or permanent storage of the produced quantities of the mud. Similar situations are faced by other companies of the same industry as well.

Taking these imperatives under consideration, the valorization of the diabase mud, combined with an efficient go-to-market strategy seems to be a mandatory measure for a sustainable solution to the problem.