Certain things may seem to have no use for society, no reason to exist. These things are often ignored, discarded, even forgotten. But Votorantim Cimentos thinks differently.
When no one sees a purpose, we prefer to see an opportunity. When everyone sees a problem, we see potential. After all, everything exists for a reason. And that's why we started to look at açaí pits from a different perspective.
Everyone knows açaí—a purple fruit from the Amazon region that is served in a bowl with granola and has won over Brazil. What few people know is that approximately 80% of its mass is made of pits and seeds, and is discarded in the production chain that takes the fruit from the tree to your table. This waste ends up being sent to landfills or, even worse, discarded in the local environment.
In the State of Pará alone, 550,000 tonnes of açaí pits are generated every year. When Votorantim Cimentos opened its plant in Primavera, a small town in Pará, the company already had in mind the idea of using this precious local raw material.
Since 1991, Votorantim Cimentos has had a long tradition of using waste (including oily substances, rubber, contaminated wood, tires, paper and even plastic) to replace fossil fuels. But this would be the company's first time using açaí pits. Therefore, the process required a series of tests until, at the end of 2017, we identified the ideal variables.
Suppliers in the region collect the pits that would otherwise be discarded; they undergo a drying process and arrive at our plant to replace part of the petroleum coke used as fuel in cement kilns.
Currently, the plant processes 6,500 tonnes of pits per month, producing a savings of R$500,000/month. In the near future, the goal is to reach 10,000 tonnes. This is great for the company, but the real beneficiary is the environment.
In addition to eliminating waste and substituting fossil fuels, this process reduces gas emissions, both at the plant and when transporting coke, which is now imported in smaller quantities. These efforts are part of the company's Strategic Sustainability Plan, which aims to reduce emissions by 25% and the purchase of fuels by 40% in all countries where Votorantim Cimentos operates.
It is also worth mentioning that we are developing Açaí Community, a program that involves both local cooperatives and the State Government to ensure that this production chain can create income and facilitate other social projects for families in the region.
Thanks to açaí pits—that useless thing that no one cared about—we were able to create a more sustainable process, while still maintaining the same quality of cement. More than that, we involved the region and created new income opportunities.
But that's not the end of the story. Votorantim Cimentos continues to pursue new ways to use waste to reduce its impact on the environment. Wherever there is a certain material that no one is interested in, that is exactly where we will be looking.