Tires have historically been environmentally problematic sources of waste. Recently, however, technological advancements have led to much more efficient recycling by manufacturing construction materials, developing tire-derived fuels (TDF) and repurposing.
When the province decided the direction for tire recycling, they chose the manufacture of Tire Derived Aggregate or TDA. It has a number of uses, such as foundation material for highway and railway beds, backfill, and other civil engineering applications. At the time, a tender was issued and a local small business, Halifax C&D Recycling, was given the contract.
They invested in the neighbourhood of $5 million in equipment to properly process used tires and for the last eight years have run a successful program. According to the folks at Halifax C&D, there have been no fires, no stockpiles of tires or TDA and no environmental issues.
To pay for all of this, as a consumer, you pony up a fee of $4.50 per tire at the point of sale. This goes to Divert Nova Scotia who in turn pay $2.00 per tire to Halifax C&D Recycling Ltd. to deal with it at end of life. Ostensibly, the other $2.50 is used for transportation, administration and other costs associated with its disposal or funneled off to pay for recycling of other products.
Ten years ago Rodney MacDonald’s PC government proposed using tire derived fuel. In response, Liberal opposition MLA Keith Colwell brought forward a bill to ban the use of tires as fuel. He was adamant in pointing out potential health risks and outlining what he saw as a sweetheart deal for multi-national concrete manufacturer Lafarge because they would be paid to burn the tires. The idea was shelved.
This month, in a stunning reversal, Nova Scotia’s newly minted Environment Minister Iain Rankin gave a green light to a one-year pilot for Lafarge to start burning TDF in its plant in Brookfield. So what changed in nine years? Not much. Lafarge will get $1.05 from Divert Nova Scotia for every tire it burns. It’s a great deal for Lafarge, which is getting a fuel subsidy, and for Divert NS, which gets a lower disposal cost. For Halifax C&D, not so much.
Remember, for eight years, Halifax C&D believed the Nova Scotia government would never permit burning and would focus exclusively on recycling tires. They built their business developing markets based on what they saw as a consistent policy direction of government and a reasonably predictable stream of used tires.
The science of burning TDF, some of which was developed at Dalhousie University, indicates health and environmental risks are almost non-existent. We could argue the relative merits of using TDF versus natural gas in the cement kiln, but it would miss the point. What is more troubling, with this reversal, the government of Nova Scotia has put at risk the future of a local family firm, which has grown and developed in alignment with environmental goals, in favour of mandating citizens to directly subsidize a large multinational’s fuel costs.
Meanwhile, the experience Halifax C&D developed as a tire recycler has allowed them to bid on and win a pilot project in Newfoundland and Labrador. While this is a good new business opportunity to export Nova Scotian knowledge, experience and business to another province, and to create more jobs, it will not replace what C&D are losing here at home.
The government, by reversing direction on tire recycling in favour of burning, has thrown a small business into chaos in favour of subsidizing the fuel costs of a large multi-national. For a government that purports to support small business in Nova Scotia, this is not the way to show it.
Jordi Morgan is Vice President Atlantic of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.