Burn tires or recycle them?

Lydia Sorflaten flips through decade-old clippings showing how she and her neighbours stopped a nearby cement plant from burning tires at a kiln 500 metres from their tranquil Nova Scotia lake.

But there's a news report on top of the pile from earlier this month that confirms their fight isn't over.

"It's very discouraging," the 72-year-old says as she sits at neighbour Ken Warren's dining room table, stacks of studies piled high. "How is this happening again?"

The provincial Environment Department recently approved a one-year pilot project that will allow Lafarge Canada Inc. to use scrap tires for fuel in its Brookfield, N.S., factory.

Just weeks earlier, the province's waste diversion corporation, Divert NS, also confirmed it's shifting distribution of at least 280,000 scrap tires a year from a recycler to Lafarge, a French multinational that will receive a provincial subsidy of about $1.05 per tire.

The two decisions have reignited a dormant Canadian debate over the safety of the emissions from tire burning and the wisdom of incinerating rubber for industrial fuels, rather than recycling a spent product.

At the Lafarge plant, manager Frederic Bolduc says he expects test results will show burning tires in the kiln will produce fewer greenhouse gases and pollutants than burning coal and petroleum coke.

However, tire burning was dealt a blow a decade ago by environmental groups arguing the opposite.

In 2008, a Lafarge proposal similar to the one for Brookfield was met with stiff opposition from the residents of Bath, Ont. Lafarge backed down after losing a legal battle. And just last year, Ontario passed a regulation bluntly stating the province's waste diversion program "shall not promote" tire burning.

In Nova Scotia, opposition to tire incineration led to a private member's bill from the then-opposition Liberals that would have banned the practice in 2008. However, the legislation was never proclaimed law.

In Alberta, Manitoba, Yukon and New Brunswick, there is currently no burning of scrap tires, according to the Canadian Association of Tire Recycling Agencies.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, tire burning has declined since 1991, from 75 per cent of the total number of scrap tires to just 13 per cent today, according to Rosemary Sutton, director of Tire Stewardship B.C.

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