By JULIE RIDDLE, The Alpena News
ALPENA, Michigan (AP) – Michigan has a scrap tire problem, but Alpena could help solve the problem.
By mid-2023, Alpena could rid the state of one-fifth of the 10 million used tires the Michiganders produce each year by allowing Lafarge Alpena to burn 2 million tires a year to heat the ovens used in the cement making process, according to The Alpena. New.
The legislature approved a $ 3 million grant through the state’s Scrap Tire Regulatory Fund to cover half the cost of the equipment needed to burn whole tires, according to Kirstin Clemens, waste tire coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
Most companies that burn tires for fuel need chipped tires, but the size of the Lafarge ovens allows the plant to burn whole tires, eliminating processing costs. No one has to remove the steel belts in the tires before burning them, like in other companies, because Lafarge can add the metal to the cement to strengthen the end product, Clemens said.
Lafarge is already using filtration equipment to meet state and federal standards for protection against emissions of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and other chemicals of concern when tires burn, according to Melissa Byrnes, environmental engineer specialist from EGLE’s Air Quality division, which reviewed Lafarge’s application for the project.
The project will reduce reliance on fossil fuels, reduce Lafarge’s carbon footprint and prevent tires from sitting in unsightly – and potentially environmentally dangerous – piles, according to Jeff Scott, manager of the Alpena plant.
In Michigan, several power plants use chipped tires for fuel, including Viking Energy in Lincoln, which used about 1 million tires in 2020.
Meanwhile, Michigan drivers continue to create new used tires, as state agencies try to keep pace.
Motorists and businesses recycled three out of four used tires in the United States in 2019, according to a report released in October by the US Tire Manufacturers Association.
However, six years ago almost all used tires were recycled.
The change does not reflect a decrease in recycling, but an increase in the number of used tires generated each year, according to the report.
More than 55 million used tires remain in inventory nationwide – mostly in Michigan and seven other states, according to the report – even after EGLE’s used tire program has found and cleaned 35 million tires since 1991.
The program’s clean-up grants – including $ 9,000 given to Alpena County this year to support tire collection events – help keep those piles from growing. Supported by a vehicle title transfer fee of $ 1.50 in Michigan, the fund has also supported tire drive events in Alcona and Presque Isle counties for at least the past few years.
Residents deposited 3,500 tires during a May 1 drive conducted by the Alpena Resource Recovery Facility, according to facility manager Stan Mischley.
Tires collected at the event – free to residents for the first 10 tires – went to a transformer in Flint who grinds the tires as fuel or to replace sand, gravel and stone in road, construction projects and others.
Alpena’s resource recovery facility also takes tires out the rest of the year, but residents must pay to cover the cost of their recycling. The deposit costs $ 2 for a standard tire or $ 45 for tractor tires that take up space in a truck.
In addition to building materials, scrap tire converters turn tires into mulch products such as landscaping edging and starter trays, said Clemens, of EGLE. Metal recovered from tires finds new life as parts of vehicles and other products.
However, tires that do not reach transformers are not only breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects, but also pose a health hazard if they burn – giving off toxic smoke, carrying chemicals into the soil. and fueling a fire hardly extinguished with water or foam, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
A pile of tires burned down in a fire at the transfer facility from Greenway to Alpena in May. Greenway, an Alpena garbage removal service, complied with state regulations and inspections identified no additional fire threats, according to John Ozoga, deputy district supervisor for the management division. materials from EGLE, which has inspected the facility in recent years.
The tires burned intensely after the remainder of the fire was brought under control, however, and firefighters at the scene expressed concern that the tire blaze was extinguished.
A 1995 fire in Grand Traverse County kept a 30-foot pile of used tires on fire for several weeks, causing a nearby school to close and residents to be evacuated.
The fire gave a boost to the state’s scrap tire collection program, which targets inventory such as a pile of 3 million tires once located north of Kalamazoo, Clemens said.
Callers for the scrap tire program sometimes report that 20 tires need cleaning, apologizing for the large number, Clemens said.
“For us 100,000 tires is starting to be a lot,” she said. “It’s a question of scale.
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