22 Jun 2017

Govt plans to burn millions of waste tyres every year

7:48 pm on 22 June 2017

The government plans to burn millions of tyres each year as a heat source to make cement, in a bid to deal with the "long-standing" problem of waste tyres.

An illegal tyre dump in Waikato

An illegal tyre dump in Waikato: The government estimates five million used tyres are thrown out each year. Photo: Supplied

People will also be barred from accumulating stockpiles of more than 2500 used car tyres without local authority consent, under the new plan.

The plan was announced today by Environment Minister Nick Smith at Golden Bay Cement near Whangarei.

"New Zealand has a long-standing problem, with five million waste tyres generated each year," Dr Smith said.

The plan is to burn the tyres as a heat source to manufacture the cement, instead of using coal.

Dr Smith said burning the tyres instead of coal would reduce carbon emissions by 13,000 tonnes annually.

He told Nine to Noon the plan would also reduce piles of dumped tyres, which always proved to be a huge headache.

"As the tyres deteriorate, contaminants are picked up in the water and that makes its way into the aquifers, the rivers, the lakes. The second problem is the fire risk. You also get the problem of vermin and insects such as mosquitos. And then there are just straight aesthetics."

To help this process, the government has provided a grant of $6.4 million to set up nation wide tyre collection facilities and tyre shredding facilities in Auckland and Christchurch.

Shredding is necessary, because the large bulk of used tyres would otherwise make their transportation too expensive.

The shredding machinery will be imported this year, and is planned to be operational in Auckland by the end of 2017 and in Christchurch in 2018.

The government is also making a grant to Golden Bay Cement of $13.6m, as part of the $18.1m cost of new equipment.

The new gear will burn 3.1 million shredded tyres per year, at high temperatures.

Dr Smith said Golden Bay Cement was New Zealand's fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the substitution of rubber biofuel for coal would reduce emissions by 13,000 tonnes annually, or the equivalent of 6000 cars.

Disposal plan welcomed

Waikato Regional Council investigation and incident manager Patrick Lynch said he could not wait for the government's disposal plan to be in place.

He recalled one case he had to deal with involving tyre dumping near Huntly.

"The landowner there would run a truck up to Auckland, pick up end-of-life tryes from tyre retailers, bring them back to his property, dig very deep holes and put a lot of tyres underground," Mr Lynch said.

"This man was paid a few dollars per tyre to take them off people's hands, he dumped about a million of them illegally, then vanished overseas, leaving little but a dispiriting video of his ugly legacy

"We've got a 20 tonne digger, digging down five to six metres into the ground, and just drawing out hundreds of tyres that had been buried right down to the water table," he said.

Senior Fire Service executive Esitone Paunga also welcomed the move, saying tyre fires were particularly hard to deal with.

"The most challenging thing for us is getting access, because quite often these piles of tyres are in rural or large outdoor spaces and there is no road access," he said.

"There are chemicals in tyres and when they burn there is a breakdown to their basic levels and then toxicity is definitely in there."

"Getting rid of these heaps of tyres before they catch fire is sometimes little more than a game of musical chairs."

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