St. Mary's Cement Plant, Bowmanville

"Alternative fuels" for making cement and steel

We're disappointed to say that the Province of Ontario passed a new regulation in April 2015 to allow cement and steel facilities across Ontario to burn waste instead of coal with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For the last year, TEA and other environmental and health groups have been researching and writing on this issue. We have vocally and publicly opposed the proposed regulations and met with the Government many times to outline our key concerns and recommendations to improve the proposed regulation.

Unfortunately, the Province made few changes and didn't address the fundamental problems with the regulation.

What's wrong with 'alternative fuels'?

Finding low-carbon fuels for energy-intensive industries is a good goal. However, we need to be sure that we're not creating unintended problems. Garbage is not a "low carbon" fuel, it simply has marginally lower carbon emissions than coal. 

Unfortunately, the regulations mean that these facilities can burn many types of garbage, including recyclables, and remove waste permit requirements for these industries. Most importantly, burning garbage releases different air emissions than burning coal, so this could result in more toxic pollution in the air around these facilities.

Nearly a decade ago, TEA and other groups opposed a proposal that would see tires burnt in cement kilns as "alternative fuel." Because of our opposition, the Government created Ontario's tire recycling rules, and now Ontario has a 100% recycling rate for tires, the best in the world! Again, TEA has a vital role to play in helping shape this decision to ensure that the government takes action that considers the long-term impacts on the environment. 

What's Next?

TEA will monitor proposals to burn waste by the cement, steel and lime facilities and do what we can to support community groups near the facilities.

The Province is revising the outdated Waste Diversion Act this year, TEA will push the Government to address the loopholes and problems in the existing policies that allow recyclable waste to be used as 'alternative fuels' instead of being recycled. Read more about Provincial Waste Policy.

More information:
Read the Decision Notice on the EBR registry (#012-1559)

See submissions and media releases from environmental NGOs on the draft regulations below.

Community concern about the draft regulation was covered in the Hamilton Spectator and Hamilton Community News:
Hamilton Spectator "New rules could see garbage used in steel and cement-making"
Hamilton Community News "Environment Hamilton raises stink over industrial biomass fuel plan"