Tyres to replace coal as plant fuel
A cement factory is adopting a novel solution to the problem of waste tyre disposal - it is burning them as fuel.
Lafarge Tarmac has signed an agreement with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) that will see it replace around a third of its fossil fuel consumption with waste-derived products such as old tyres.
Burning tyres produces fewer emissions than coal, and cement kilns such as those at Lafarge's plant in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, are suited for containing the by-products of their combustion.
The Cookstown operation, which employs 86 people, currently uses coal for about 95% of its fuel.
With long-term burning of coal seen as unsustainable in terms of climate change impacts, and also commercially unviable, the agreement makes business sense for the firm.
A voluntary Prosperity Agreement signed with NIEA will see Lafarge Tarmac substitute up to 35% of its coal usage with waste-derived fuels and replace non-renewable materials in accordance with a code of practice developed by the Mineral Products Association (MPA).
In return the NIEA will work to reduce the bureaucratic burden on the company.
Devendra Mody, industrial director at Lafarge Tarmac, said the agreement would help secure jobs and prosperity while delivering better environmental outcomes in Cookstown.
"This Prosperity Agreement signifies a step-change in the way that our business interacts with NIEA," she said.
"NIEA are the first UK regulator to facilitate the implementation of the MPA code of practice enabling our Cookstown operation to increase its fossil fuel substitution rates without the associated bureaucracy.
"As a result, our energy costs will reduce and we can commit to significantly reduce our CO2 emissions.
"To be sustainable, we need to be profitable and this innovative new approach will help ensure the economic prosperity and the future of the Cookstown site."
Stormont environment minister Mark H Durkan, who visited the factory to sign the agreement, said such partnerships turned environmental issues from "barriers to business into economic growth opportunities".
He said the deal would see the red tape burden on the factory reduced in turn for its investment in the economy.
"Lafarge Tarmac is committing significant investment in the environment," he said.
"In addition to many environmental benefits it will reduce its carbon emissions from production by a minimum of 10%, equivalent to taking 6,500 cars off the road, and will look at ways to reduce emissions from its transportation chain."
The company has also committed to improving public access to rare geological features found in the Ballysudden area at its Cookstown quarry, and to work with stakeholders to develop a renewable energy strategy and examine options for reducing packaging.
Mr Durkan added: "Other countries are showing keen interest in these agreements. The government in Westminster has talked about red tape reduction since it was elected. It has produced lots of promises and reports. In DOE (Department of the Environment), we're not talking about it but are getting on and doing it. We are creating a better environment and a stronger economy."
Lord Deben and Matthew Bell, chairman and chief executive of the UK Climate Change Committee, were also in Cookstown for the announcement.
Mr Bell said: "Prosperity Agreements demonstrate how we can grow while also reducing the risks of climate change.
"Industry plays an important role in helping to meet the UK target for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. I welcome Lafarge Tarmac's commitment.
"A reduction of 10% in greenhouse gas emissions over the next four years builds on improved efficiency across the sector since 1990. I hope this agreement acts as a good example of joint working between regulators and industry, and will be followed by others in Northern Ireland and around the UK."