The LaFarge cement plant in Brookfield, N.S., began burning 20 tonnes of scrap tires a day this summer to fuel its cement-making operations in an effort to move away from burning coal and to help reduce the plant’s carbon footprint.
“For every ton of coal that we replace with scrap tires, we will see a 30 per cent decrease in C02 emissions,” said LaFarge director of environmental affairs Robert Cumming.
The company estimates it will burn nearly 400,000 scrap tires a year. That equals half of the 800,000 tires that are discarded in the province per year, which Cumming says not only diverts tires from landfills but will cut its carbon emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels by the year 2030.
“It also means that Nova Scotians have a way to use their own scrap tires,” said Cumming. “So we’re making use of a local fuel source and taking scrap tires away from local landfilling.”
Nova Scotia has a tire recycling program and critics have said giving the tires – and part of the environmental handling fees – to Lafarge amounts to a subsidy.
Environmental groups like the Citizens Against Burning of Tires (CABOT) also worry about the toxins from burning rubber and have fought the company every step of the way.
“the stack looks better because they aren’t burning as much coal,” admits Lydia Sorflaten, CABOT spokesperson. “However, the chemicals that we can’t see is what concerns us.”
Sorflaten lives a few hundred yards from the LaFarge plant, the smokestack is visible from her front porch and she wants to see the company invest in greater environmental protections like upgrading the stack.
“They’ve done nothing in over forty years,” she said. “Their electrostatic precipitator is old, old, old.”
LaFarge has been trying to implement the scrap tire project for years and this pilot project is under the supervision of the Nova Scotia Department of Environment.
The tire-burning project will be evaluated at the end of the year, in order to measure whether the plant meets its emission targets or not.