Criticism continues to mount in the wake of a controversial decision by the Nova Scotia government.
On Thursday, environment minister Iain Rankin announced that he had given Lafarge Canada Inc., environmental approval to burn used tires as a replacement fuel at their cement plant in Brookfield, N.S., for one year as part of a pilot project.
Currently, all used tires in the province go to Halifax C&D Recycling Ltd., in Goodwood, N.S. The company was the first – and remains the only – tire recycling facility in Nova Scotia.
Once at Halifax C&D, used tires are shredded and used to make a product called Tire Derived Aggregate or TDA, which is used when doing things like construction.
Halifax C&D says the decision to allow Lafarge to burn tires is going to have a serious impact on their business.
“We are a local Nova Scotian business, a family operation,” said Mike Chassie, vice-president of Halifax C&D. “We have built our business in tire operation based upon recycling all of the tires in Nova Scotia.”
Chassie says Halifax C&D has 11 full time employees who work to recycle about one million tires ever year.
They are now faced with losing 30 per cent of the tires they receive to Lafarge, a business he says they can’t compete against.
“It’s definitely going to affect our bottom line. Right now, it’s so early we’re still analyzing how much this will affect us, you never really know until it happens but our projections aren’t good,” he said.
“We could be faced with shorter shifts or layoffs down the road.”
In total, Halifax C&D has invested $5 million to recycle tires.
They’ve also invested over $1 million with the province in producing Tire Derived Chip. The product allows the company to tap into a new market and be used for things like construction projects and septic systems.
“Our products are all marketed very well and they’re all being used,” said Chassie. “There are no stock piles of tires and we actually have the next three years of our supply marked for jobs already.”
Chassie says not only is diverting tires from being recycled at Halifax C&D going to have a detrimental impact on his business, but sends a negative message to the province.
“What this does now, is this sends a message that maybe recycling isn’t the province wants to continue on.” said Chassie. “This will seriously impact our tire recycling business, but it will have a domino effect for the recycling business. If you can burn one recycling product, which is our tires, why stop there?”
Iain Rankin said he looked at the science and evidence before approving Lafarge’s application to burn up to 20 tonnes of tires each day for one of its kilns.
The Department of Environment said some evidence used in Rankin’s decision is publicly available but others can only be accessed through a freedom information request.
The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is voicing their concerns over the project and aren’t satisfied with the lack of information.
Mark Butler,policy coordinator with EAC, says the government hasn’t done a life cycle analysis, which is a crucial step to determine the overall greenhouse gas emissions and is calling on the environment minister to release the information he used to make his decision.
“I’d like to see the science. Show us the science, where’s your analysis? Because when it comes to pollutants, we know when you burn tires instead of coal you get less of some pollutants but you get more of others,” he said.
“Where is the science? It sounds like they don’t have it so it’s not a science-based decision, so why did they make it?”
WATCH: ‘Utter disappointment’ in N.S. government decision to allow Lafarge to burn tires
Canada’s environment minister was in Nova Scotia on Friday and spoke to Global News about the decision for Nova Scotia to approve an application to burn tires.
Catherine McKenna did not know how many other jurisdictions in Canada were allowing tire burning to take place.
She said the decision was made by the provincial government and that she couldn’t comment on it.
However, McKenna did say Nova Scotia is “very committed to climate action”, adding that she has been working closely with the province on their climate change plan.
We reached out to Lafarge Canada for an interview, however no one was made available.
When asked whether or not Lafarge threatened to shut down their operations in Nova Scotia, spokesperson Karine Cousineu gave the following response:
“The Brookfield Cement plant is an important economic driver for the region and the province. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the plant, not only from an environmental point of view, but also from an economic perspective is very important to us.”
Meanwhile, the Ecology Action Centre is encouraging people to sign a petition they plan to present to the Nova Scotia government to encourage them to rethink their decision to allow Lafarge to burn tires.