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[GreenYes] Star Ledger Letter to Editor by Neil Seldman

Letter to the Editor
The Star Ledger
One Star-Ledger Plaza
Newark, NJ 07102-1200

November 1, 2007

Dear Editor,

There is no need for conflict between economics and environment when it comes to old tires, (To Burn or Bury?, Star Ledger, 31 October 2007, page 1.).  Old tires are a valuable raw material that should be processed into a virgin-material substitute in the new manufacture of tires and other rubber compounds for consumer and industrial products.  This processing is solely mechanical ? no chemicals are used.  The facilities do not pollute.  Tire burning creates a great deal of pollution.  So much so that a new court ruling (The Brick Kiln decision), held that all facilities that burn tires (cement kilns, paper mills) now must abide by incineration pollution control standards to control hazardous emissions emanating from the stacks.

Economically and environmentally, burning tires is a losing proposition.  Mechanically processed rubber sells for 95 cents per pound, far more than the value of burning tires for energy.  In fact, burning tires for energy loses energy.  OId tires provide 14,000 BTUs per pound when burned.  Using processed rubber materials saves twice as much energy in production of new rubber products.  A 300 million per year tire burning plant proposed for Erie, PA will cost $165 million and create 60 jobs.  If these tires were processed into new rubber, with metal and polyethylene recovery, the Erie region would need five plants each employing 115 workers (575 jobs) at $14 per hour.  The total capital investment for these five plants would be $60 million.

Tire burning is a bad idea for both economic and environmental reasons.  Given the regulatory uncertainty surrounding tire incineration, no investment in this technology should be considered at this time.  However, it is time to start using old tires as a source of new rubber materials and significant economic development in areas of the country like Erie, Pa., Buffalo, NY, and New Orleans, LA., among other economically hard-hit areas.  We need an environmental and economic development policy that treats materials as if every molecule matters.  Communities should be dedicating their old tires, and other industrial rubber discards to mechanical processing plants.


Neil Seldman, PhD
Institute for local Self-Reliance

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