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Co-incineration in Cimpor and Secil cement kilns, Portugal

Air pollution and high rates of cancer found around cement plants burning waste for powering the industry. Protests in several places in portugal since the '90s


In 1986, shortly after joining the European Community, Portugal changed its waste management policy: the government chose to adopt co-incineration technology, in accordance with Directive 94/67/CE, instead of building an incineration plant in Estarreja. In 1996, it created the Institute for Waste (as part of the Portuguese Environmental Agency) and began to define the strategy on industrial (hazardous and non-hazardous) and urban waste, including waste from the healthcare sector. As the priority was to "add value" to industrial waste by using it as fuel or raw materials, burning the waste in cement kilns became a "perfect solution": it meant using less fuel for cement production and allowed for the reuse of dangerous waste. Some kinds of waste must be treated before being used in this process and, in this case, cement kilns must be adapted. In 1996, two national cement companies, Secil and Cimpor, in association with French-based Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux created a consortium named Scoreco. In July 1997, Scoreco conducted a study on waste production in the country and the types of waste that could be burnt in cement kilns (16,000 tons of waste per year). Protests took place between 1997 and 2000 in Maceira and, with greater intensity, between 1998 and 2002 in Souselas because of the air pollution and the noise from the plant. The epidemiological study in Souselas reportedly shows that the incidence of tumors and respiratory diseases among members of the local community is higher than in other communities in the central region of Portugal. In 1998, a coalition of NGOs and local institutions in Coimbra called the Committee for the Struggle against Co-incineration (Comissão de Luta contra a Coincineração) was created. Its activities included preparing scientific arguments to justify the demand for an epidemiological study, obtaining 50,000 signatures for a petition defending the suspension of the project (one of the biggest petitions ever in Portugal), organizing street demonstrations and coordinating efforts with Greenpeace and local institutions. In 1999, the government created an independent scientific commission to analyze the process. In 2000, it changed the location of the plant from Maceira to Outão. That was when protests in the new location began and then continued for two years. The choice of location was controversial, as it is inside the Arrábida Nature Park. At the end of December 2001, a new government was elected. It cancelled the co-incineration plan and began to develop a new strategy for waste management. Today, waste is burned in the cement kilns of Maceira and Outão (owned by Secil) and Alhandra (owned by Cimpor), but no conflict has developed at the local, regional or national level.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Co-incineration in Cimpor and Secil cement kilns, Portugal
State or province:Coimbra, Beira Baixa
Location of conflict:Souselas (Maceira, Alhandra e Outão)
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Cement
Industrial waste
Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The cement factories with co-incineration technology in Portugal are Secil (Outão) and Cimpor (Souselas) and Secil/CMP (Maceira Liz). Scoreco's conducted a study that calculated that 16.000 tons of waste per year would be available for co-incineration.

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:4000
Start of the conflict:1998
Company names or state enterprises:Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux (Suez) from France - Waste management company
Secil (Secil) from Portugal - Concession holder
Cimpor (Cimpor) from Portugal - Concession holder
Relevant government actors:Local municipal authorities
Ministério do Ambiente, Ordenamento do Território e Energia (Ministry of Environment, Territory Planning and Energy)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:NEW
Associação Cívica de Coimbra (Pro Urbe)
Associação de Defesa do Ambiente de Estarreja (Cegonha)
Associação de Defesa do Ambiente de Souselas (ADAS)
Associação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza (Quercus)
Comissão de Luta Contra a Co-incineração (CLCC)
Coordenadora Nacional Contra os Tóxicos (CNCT)
Movimento Ruptura
Núcleo Ecológico da Associação Académica de Coimbra (NEAAC)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Desertification/Drought, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Other Environmental impactsThe cement production is a process that generate a lot of air and soil pollution mainly and noise pollution too.
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Deaths, Occupational disease and accidents, Accidents
Other Health impactsThe epidemiological study in Souselas reportedly shows that the local community have more tumors and respiratory disease then other commuties in Center Portugal.
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:Recycling of waste and contaminated oils
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The co-incineration plan was initially cancelled because of local protests and because the EU was building a new strategy for waste management. However, nowadays waste is burned in the cement kilns of Maceira and Outão (owned by Secil) and Alhandra (owned by Cimpor), but the conflicts is now less intense.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Directive 2000/76/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 December 2000 on waste incineration plants and waste co-incineration plants

European Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)

Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU)

Best Available Techniques (BAT, decision 2013/163/EU). This last document names the use of alternative materials as a BAT procedure for the cement industry.

Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU)
[click to view]

European Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)
[click to view]

Best Available Techniques (BAT, decision 2013/163/EU).

Use of alternative materials as a BAT procedure for the cement industry.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

MATIAS, Marisa. Don´t treat us like dirt: the fight against the co – incineration of dangerous industrial waste in the outskirts of Coimbra. South European Society and Politics, v. 9, n. 2, p. 132-158, 2004.
[click to view]

NUNES, João Arriscado Nunes; MATIAS, Marisa, Controvérsia científica e conflitos ambientais em Portugal: O caso da co‑incineração de resíduos industriais perigosos, Revista Crítica de Ciencias Sociais, 2003.
[click to view]

KIKUCHI, R.; GERARD, R. More than a decade of conflict between hazardous waste management and public resistance: a case study of NIMBY syndrome in Souselas (Portugal). Journal Hazard Materials, Dez. 2009.
[click to view]

JERÓNIMO, Helena M.; GARCIA, José L. Risks, alternative knowledge strategies and democratic legitimacy: the conflict over co–incineration of hazardous industrial waste in Portugal. Journal of Risk Research, Jun. 2011.
[click to view]

BRANCO, Manuel, C.P. To be seen but not to be heard: scientific rationality versus democratic rationality in the decision–making process on dangerous waste management in Portugal. Universidade de Évora: Departamento de Economia, Tese de Doutorado, Jul. 2006.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Cement industry discourse . Interesting to see the positive view that they share about the process and how they are excited to "deliver a valuable contribution to environmentally sound waste management".
[click to view]

Recent complaints, 2014
[click to view]

Report of 2006 against co-incineration in cement factories in Brazil and Portugal
[click to view]

Article in "Não nos lixem"
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Co-incineration in Souselas: subject re-opened
[click to view]

Video TVI. 2009-12-08. Souselas: Co-incineração pode ser retomada
[click to view]

Co-incineration in Arrábida
[click to view]

Co-incineration suspended in Souselas, 2009.
[click to view]


PAeM - Vídeos sobre Co-incineração
[click to view]

Other comments:Souselas was the place was the strugles were stronger. Other GPS: 39.917853, -8.217043 (Outão); 39.686703, -8.884192 (Maceira)
Meta information
Contributor: Lays Silva, Lúcia Fernandes and Teresa Meira
Last update18/08/2019
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