The Lafarge cement plant located in Brookfield, Nova Scotia has been given approval by the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment to burn tires for fuel for a 12-month trial.

Despite the fact that there is reams of data available on the use of tire as a fuel in cement plants courtesy of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), the Nova Scotia government, like the Ontario government before it, is treating this full-scale trial as the first ever attempt in the world.

Scrap tires are used as fuel because of their high heating value. Using scrap tires is not recycling, but is considered a beneficial use — it is better to recover the energy from a tire rather than landfill it. About 130 million scrap tires were used as fuel in the United States (about 45% of all generated) — up from 25.9 million (10.7% of all generated) in 1991.  As of 2016, it was estimated about 53 million tires per year are consumed as fuel in US cement kilns.

There are several advantages to using tires as fuel:

  • Tires produce the same amount of energy as oil and 25% more energy than coal;
  • The ash residues from TDF may contain a lower heavy metals content than some coals;
  • Results in lower NOx emissions when compared to many US coals, particularly the high-sulfur coals.

Based on over 15 years of experience with more than 80 individual facilities, the U.S. EPA recognized that the use of tire-derived fuels is a viable alternative to the use of fossil fuels. U.S. EPA testing shows that TDF has a higher BTU value than coal.  Tires are permitted to be used as fuel in portland cement kilns and other industrial facilities in the U.S., so long as the candidate facilities: (1) have a tire storage and handling plan; (2) have secured a permit for all applicable state and federal environmental programs; and (3) are in compliance with all the requirements of that permit.

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller said in a news conference that the decision by her department was based on “science and evidence.”

“We know this isn’t the very first time that tires have ever been used for fuel for a low carbon source of fuel,” she told reporters on her way into Province House.

The industrial approval document, released by the Department of Environment, says LaFarge will need to monitor air quality and ensure there is no groundwater contamination. The company is expected to shoulder the costs of those measures.

During the year-long trial Lafarge will be limited to burning tires to a maximum of 15 per cent of its daily fuel needs or a 20 tonne per day limit.

Nova Scotians who replace their tires pay a $4-a-tire recycling fee that is supposed to go towards programs designed to reuse or recycle them. Lafarge will be getting a portion of that fee to dispose of the tires it will burn, but Premier Stephen McNeil rejected the notion the money is a subsidy.  “I don’t see it as a subsidy,” he said. ” We see this as reducing our environmental footprint from burning coal. It’s recycling in a different way.”

As reported by the CBC, the decision in July 2017 to issue an environmental assessment approval for the project, an initial step in the approval process, drew criticism from environmentalists and nearby residents, from Nova Scotia’s only tire recycler at the time, Halifax C&D Recycling Ltd., and from the NDP.