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Waste incineration fuelled cement plant in Montcada i Reixac, Spain


This is an environmental justice conflict taking place in Montcada i Reixac, near Barcelona, with complaints from civil society organizations against the Lafarge cement factory (owned by Holcim).

The township of Montcada i Reixac, right next to Barcelona, experienced an urbanistic boom during the 1960s-70s. Most of the new inhabitants were working class people from Andalusia and Extremadura. Currently, the population of Montcada i Reixac is mainly working class, and there are Roma communities and also immigrant people from outside Europe.

Lafarge Cementos is a cement company that acquired the factory that was first established in Montcada i Reixac in 1917. In 2007, the company asked for permission to burn waste as part of the fuel mix to power the kilns in the cement plant (which as alleged by environmental groups causes a risk of emissions with toxic components dangerous to human health). The company denied and denies such risks.

The permission for co-incineration was granted on the 4th of August 2008 and started from June 2010. Since then, opposition to the ‘new co-incinerator’ grew. People living nearby organized themselves in a platform of more than 50 groups which have been demanding to stop the waste burning. They organized meetings, workshops, demonstrations and they brought the company and the town council before the courts. At the same time, the platform coordinated with other anti-incinerator platforms from other parts of Spain and also with international groups.

In September 2013, the Highest Court of Justice in Catalonia cancelled the company's environmental permission on technicalities, namely, irregularities during the application process: it was alleged by activists that the EIA report was approved the very same day it was presented when it is necessary to leave 30 days between presenting an EIA and approving it, to allow allegations from civil society groups. The company has appealed and the appeal has been accepted by the Supreme Court of Catalunya. The case is pending, and in the meantime the plant continues operations legally.

The newspaper La Vanguardia (the main center-right Catalan newspaper) reported on 17 February 2014 about citizen mobilization and a macrofestival to demand the closure of the factory: “La plataforma Nou Barris Cabrejada ha organizado el próximo 15 de marzo un macrofestival solidario reivindicativo en el Ateneu Popular de Nou Barris para exigir el cierre de la cementera incineradora Lafarge de Montcada i Reixac, constante fuente de malos olores, contaminación y problemas para la salud, según los vecinos. Las actividades, organizadas conjuntamente con la entidad Pigmeas Revoltosas y con el apoyo de la Plataforma Anti Incineració de Montcada, darán comienzo el sábado 15 de marzo a las 13.30h con un pasacalles con salida a la plaza Francesc Layret, que seguirá con un concierto en el Ateneu Popular de 9 Barris a las 21.00h, a cargo de Itaca Band, Daniel Higiénico y Rap Genoma, entre otros. La reivindicación seguirá el 20 de marzo en el Casal del Barri de Prosperitat con una conferencia sobre los peligros para la salud que provoca la incineración de residuos”.

La Vanguardia (17/2/2014) explained that according to local grassroots environmentalists, "aunque la Plataforma Anti Incineració de Montcada ha ganado el primer juicio, por el cual la Generalitat (the regional government) retiró el permiso medioambiental a la cementera, la fábrica ha presentado un recurso y continúa incinerando.”

In summary, we see here that the origin of the present conflict lies in the co-incineration of waste as fuel. This is not an uncommon complaint – there is a similar allegation in another Lafarge factory in Slovenia. In Montcada i Reixac there are currently (in 2014) street demonstrations and festivals, and also legal appeals on administrative permissions and a court case against Lafarge.

Academic research has also shown, in line with claims from civil society organizations, how health risk is often associated with co-incineration. Javier García-Pérez et al. (2015) shows significant increase of certain types of cancers closed to cement factories (“Cancer mortality in towns in the vicinity of installations for the production of cement, lime, plaster, and magnesium oxide”, Chemosphere, 128: 103-110). According to the same article, the representative of the Spanish cement industry, Mr Dimas Vallina, declared such results only show a statistical correlation (“una correlación estadística – nada más”, see also press sources here in relation to the Sagunto cement plant Garcia-Perez et al 2015, referring to a previous article, states that “other question of interest lies in the replacement of fossil fuel with ‘‘alternative’’ fuel, so-called by the cement industry – which consists in reducing the use of petroleum coke, the usual fuel, using instead waste and/or biomass … Emissions from waste incineration industries arouse social alarm due to health problems that may be generated among their workers and the surrounding populations … In a previous paper, we studied cancer mortality in towns near incinerators, using a similar methodology than in this paper, and we found excess risks for all cancers combined (total population) and tumors of stomach (women), gallbladder (men), lung (men) and pleura (men)” (García-Pérez et al, 2013, “Cancer mortality in towns in the vicinity of incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste”, Environment International 51:31-44).

The World Health Organization expert Nicolás Olea is also convinced that emissions are directly correlated with cancer in the neighborhood [1].

Basic Data

NameWaste incineration fuelled cement plant in Montcada i Reixac, Spain
SiteMontcada i Reixac
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Other industries
Specific CommoditiesCement
Industrial waste
Domestic municipal waste

Project Details and Actors

Project Area (in hectares)3
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population40,000
Start Date2007
Company Names or State EnterprisesLafarge Cementos from France
Holcim from Switzerland
LafargeHolcim from France
Relevant government actorsMontcada i Reixac town council, Catalan government
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPlataforma antiincineració de Montcada i Reixac, Asociación de vecinos Can Sant Joan, GAIA

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
A Macro-festival


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Other Environmental impacts
OtherAlleged threat of air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Other socio-economic impacts
OtherNeighbours have complained about the cement factory for other reasons in the past, and they now complain against waste incineration.


Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesStop the incineration of waste.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The appeal of the company regarding the EIA is pending in court and the mobilization continues in 2014 and 2015.

Sources and Materials


Decret del Parlament de Catalunya 80/2002, regulador de les condicions per a la incineració de residus: i tramits/Normativa/Normativa catalana en materia de residus/decret_80_2002.pdf

EU 2000/76/CE Directive on incineration of waste:

Real Decreto 653/2003 sobre incineración de residuos:

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants:

Decret del Parlament 323/1994 pel qual es regulen les instal·lacions d'incineració de residus i els límits de les seves emissions a latmosfera: i tramits/Normativa/Normativa catalana en materia de residus/decret_323 _1994.pdf


Video. EL escarabajo verde El aire que respiras. Documentary on Barcelonas air quality. From the minute 14:30 the case of Montcada i Reixac is explained.

Video: Un pols a la valorització. Short documentary on the Montcada i Reixac environmental conflict with the cement plant with incineration:

Court struggle against waste incineration fuelled cement plants. A video from the Montcada i Reixac antiincinerator group in which their lawyer explains the legal strategy:

Article about the formation of dioxines from domestic waste incineration: McKay, G. (2002). Dioxin characterisation, formation and minimisation during municipal solid waste (MSW) incineration: review. Chemical Engineering Journal, 86, 343–368.

Javier García-Pérez et al. (2015), Cancer mortality in towns in the vicinity of installations for the production of cement, lime, plaster, and magnesium oxide”, Chemosphere, 128: 103-110

García-Pérez et al, 2013, “Cancer mortality in towns in the vicinity of incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste”, Environment International 51:31-44


Newspaper article: El TSJC anula la licencia de la cementera de Montcada i Reixac:

Newspaper article: La plataforma antiincineració de Montcada anirà als tribunals si es dóna el permís ambiental a Lafarge:

Radio program from Spanish National Radio on waste incineration fuelled cement plants. The antiincineration group from Moncada i Reixac is interviewed at the beggining of the program. March 2014.

Campaign: Judici a la cimentera (let's bring the cement plant to Court)

[1] La Vanguardia - Un experto de la OMS relaciona las emisiones de la cementera de Montcada con el cáncer

Media Links

Website antiincinerator platform montcada aire net:

Website against incinerators in Barcelona:

Montaca i Reixac antiincineration group Interviewed in the Catalan Regional TV (TV3) . March 2014.

The Catalan actor Sergi López gives support to the antiincineration campaign in Montcada i Reixac.

Other Documents

Lafarge cement factory Source:

Meta Information

ContributorAmaranta Herrero and EJatlas editors
Last update12/03/2015



Lafarge cement factory