MAC: Mines and Communities

Pennsylvania OKs Lafarge Cement to Burn Nonrecyclable Plastics

Published by MAC on 2005-12-12

Pennsylvania OKs Lafarge Cement to Burn Nonrecyclable Plastics

Environmental News Service (ENS)

12th December 2005

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection today approved an air quality plan for LaFarge North American Inc. in Whitehall Township that allows the company to use certain nonrecyclable plastics as a fuel supplement in its cement kilns.

The DEP issued the approval for the Lehigh County facililty following a two year review process that included a test burn and sampling regimen that the department developed and monitored to obtain data to determine whether emissions met all air quality regulations.

“The entire testing and monitoring process was carefully controlled to ensure there was no threat to public health or the environment,” said DEP Northeast Regional Director Michael Bedrin.

LaFarge had to test for many organic and inorganic chemicals, including dioxin, furans and products of incomplete combustion. The company also had to conduct a specially designed health-based risk assessment, using DEP’s approved models and protocols, on emissions found during the test burn to ensure the use of these plastics are safe for residents and the environment.

LaFarge submitted the request to DEP in January 2003 and proposed to use Types 4, 5, 6 and 7 plastic as a fuel supplement. The plastic type codes are defined by the Society of the Plastics Industry.

Type 4, low-density polyethylene, includes many plastic bags, shrink wrap, and garment bags.

Type 5, polypropylene includes refrigerated containers, some bags, most bottle tops, some carpets, some food wrap.

Type 6, polystyrene includes throwaway utensils, meat packing, and protective packing.

Type 7 is layered or mixed plastic with no recycling potential.

At the time of its original application, DEP directed the company to present the details of the proposal to township officials and residents and ensure their early involvement in the process.

During review of the LaFarge application, state recycling experts reviewed the use of the specific recyclable material as a fuel and found there is no secondary market for these plastic, confirming the company’s assertion that these materials normally are disposed of in landfills.

In addition to these preliminary assessments, the plan approval also requires additional fuel sampling, annual stack emissions testing and the use of continuous emission monitors to ensure air quality.

DEP held a public hearing on the application October 27. A comment and response document on the testimony that was presented during that meeting has been prepared and will be distributed and made available to residents and officials. The LaFarge air plan approval can be appealed to the state Environmental Hearing Board within 30 days.

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