26 April 2011

When the rubber hits the road…

The current provincial government discovered innovation as a word they could use to describe something they thought might sell well with the punters.

You can reduce the thing down to a word because, as much as they talk about innovation, the current provincial government seems to be incapable of doing anything novel.



Take, for example, the problem of recycling tires.  The current crowd inherited a problem from the crowd before them:  mounds of tires stockpiled at a couple of sites in the province and nothing that apparently could be done with them.  A couple of ideas cropped up but the companies behind them never got anywhere.

So the current crowd shipped them off to Quebec where they burn them for fuel.

Last week, the provincial government unveiled another contract to ship a few million used tires to Quebec, entirely at government expense, so that a couple of coal-fired cement plants there could supplement coal with tire bits.

Newfoundlanders paying to ship energy to Quebec in a deal where they get the benefit and the locals get to pick up the tab.

Churchill Falls.

Muskrat Falls.


Same pattern.

Or burning them in Quebec before. 

Burning more in Quebec now.

More of the same, no matter how you look at it.

The cost for shipping the tires in the new contract is apparently about $3.0 million or more and while the provincial government has billions of dollars in cash, it hardly seems sensible that someone couldn’t figure out a way to use the tires productively in this province for less than six or seven million bucks it is likely costs to ship tires all told.

Heck, just for good measure, let’s make the figure $10 million. If we cannot do something within the province with our tires for less than $10 million and an environmental bonus, then shipping them is a good idea.

Right off the bat, we can scratch anything involving burning the tires.  Sure there are studies saying it is okay and yes, it is better than coal.  But there is something about burning tires in a place where we don’t burn coal any more that just doesn’t make sense.

And there are only so many blast mats you can make so there’s got to be something else out there.


Google search!

Try a few possibilities and you can wind up at the website maintained by the Nova Scotia government’s recycling agency.  They had a problem figuring out what to do with their used tires.  After a report  identified serious questions about using tires as fuel, an expert committee recommended shredding the tires and using them in road construction and similar applications.

They call it tire-derived aggregate or TDA. It’s a pretty lightweight and inexpensive substitute for gravel in some construction.  In places prone to frost, TDA can actually help improve the lifespan of pavement.  There are some questions about TDA.  For example, some people regard using it as aggregate to be the same as burying the tires.  On the whole, the Nova Scotia committee thought that TDA was the way to go.

Then there’s the cost.

One presentation on the tire recycling site comes from an American company with experience in shredding tires. The presenter put the cost for the trucks, storage facility and shredders – the infrastructure – at about US$1.6 million.  You’d have to add labour costs in there to get the likely total cost but that hardly seems very costly to get started shredding tires.

And that’s just one alternative to shipping the mounds of used tires in Newfoundland out of the province and paying someone else to burn them.

- srbp -