Holcim’s Three Forks plant in Montana wants to replace some of its traditional coal and petcoke fuels by scrap tyres, a move which has generated protests from local pressure groups.
Ralph Denoski, plant manager at Three Forks, believes tyres are the best choice as the incineration of scrap tyres is environmentally-safe, disposing of tyres in a problem-free way and costing less than using coal, he commented. Holcim wants to meet 15 per cent of its fuel demands through tyre burning – estimating a demand for 600,000 to 1m tyres per year and saving the company US$250,000m during that time span. Although this quantity could be generated by Montana citizens, recyclers would also take a share and would result in tyres being imported from other states.
It is because of this that pressure groups have seized the argument. Montanans Against Toxic Burning (MATB) has stated that the state does not require garbage from elsewhere. Its spokesperson Jennifer Swearingen commented: “The pollution stays here and the money goes to Switzerland. … It’s clear to me this is the wrong place and the wrong plant to be doing this kind of waste incineration. They do not have the control technology that waste incinerators do.” In addition, MATB has expressed concern in a physicians-backed letter about hazardous substances in tyres will be released through the incineration process and enter the food chain.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is preparing a draft environmental impact statement about tyre-burning, which is expected for release this summer. However, a 2001 law passed to streamline the permit process, states information gathered to meet the Montana Environmental Policy Act may not be used to withhold a permit to protect public health or the environment unless another law authorises it.
David Klemp, supervisor of the DEQ’s air permitting section, commented: “That’s one of the things I think everybody will be frustrated with: we will undertake this huge effort, disclose the impacts and in the end we may not have the authority to do anything about them.”