PARIS, April 25 (Reuters) - Veolia Environnement sees strong growth in its toxic waste recycling business and will keep spending up to 100 million euros per year on plants to treat industrial solvents, old batteries and pharmaceutical waste.
The French water and waste group’s toxic waste division has turnover of about 800 million euros, compared with total 2012 group turnover of 24.9 billion euros, and sees sales of the unit growing by 10 percent per year in the next four to five years.
Veolia Chief Executive Officer Antoine Frerot declined to reveal the firm’s margins on toxic waste but said they were significantly higher than on its other business, adding he expected profit to grow by 15 percent in the next few years.
The firm has been investing up to 100 million euros per year in the specialty waste business, mostly in Europe, but last year invested about 20 million euros in China on a first plant there.
For now, Veolia has little competition in this business, as most toxic waste is burned, buried or stored on industrial sites. It forms partnerships with the chemical, pharmaceutical, automotive and other industries to collect and treat the waste and resell the recycled products as raw commodities or fuel.
“We aim to share the value with our clients. They give us their waste products and they buy the recycled product from us,” Frerot told a news conference on Thursday.
For now, the company mostly gets the waste for free, but Frerot expects that as volumes grow, industries will increasingly look at their waste products as a sellable commodity from which new products can be made.
Veolia estimates Europe produces some 35 million tonnes of toxic waste, including water used in industrial processes, water mixed with fuel, chemical or pharmaceutical industry effluents, solvents, pesticides, PCB and batteries.
The French group treats about 3 million tonnes per year, less than 10 percent of the market, in sites in France, Switzerland, the UK, Germany and eastern Europe.
Clients include French carmakers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault-Nissan , French mining and metals group Eramet and Swiss drugmakers Novartis and Roche.
One of its new projects is the Osilub used-oil recycling plant in Le Havre, a 65-35 joint venture between Veolia and French oil group Total, which will recycle 120,000 tonnes of used oil and lubricants once it is fully operational. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)