Waste to Energy as a Part of Zero Waste Strategies

By David Schussler

Director of Environmental Services – T7 Enterprises L.L.C.

Before 2001 the United States Environmental Protection Agency considered TDF (Tire Derived Fuel) to be a renewable form of alternative energy. It then became relegated to the “other energy sources” category and not acceptable for agency funding.

The reason for the original “renewable” categorizing was that all studies have shown that tires consist of from 25% to 40% natural rubber which is “biogenic or “organic” which normally is the criteria necessary to categorize a fuel as “renewable biomass”. It is also known through multiple government sources that there is approximately one waste tire for every individual in the United States every year. It is a renewable resource. TDF as a fuel burns cleaner and is known to have a lower ash content and a lower sulfur content than coal. According to University of Missouri studies, Tire Derived Fuel has 20 percent more heating value than coal, 50 percent less sulfur, and has saved the University of Missouri up to $300,000 annually in electric generation.

In October 2009, NCUC (North Carolina Utilities Commission) was asked to consider whether tire-derived fuel (TDF) constituted a renewable energy resource. EPCOR USA, the petitioner in the case, argued that TDF should be classified as a renewable energy resource because TDF is a combustible residue that falls under the definition of biomass. The petitioner also argued that environmental merit warranted such classification because its high Btu value would help displace the use of coal and other fossil fuels in electricity generation. It further argued that co-firing TDF allowed other low-Btu renewable energy resources to be used without sacrificing electric generation.

NCUC concluded that biomass must consist of “biogenic” and “organic” matter typically derived from living organisms and determined that the terms “biogenic” or “organic” are inherent in the use of the word “biomass.” The petitioners introduced evidence that approximately 25% to 40% of the raw materials used in the manufacture of tires is from natural rubber, which is an organic material. Based on such evidence, NCUC concluded that the petitioner could earn renewable energy credits (RECs) for the percentage of TDFs that can be documented to be derived from natural rubber. North Carolina Utilities Commission October, 2009

There are many other studies showing the organic nature of Tire Derived Fuel so why isn’t TDF currently considered a “renewable” “alternative” energy source by the EPA? Because it isn’t, waste tire pile cleanup cannot be funded by the EPA and neither can entrepreneurs who create fuel from waste tires. It is enigmatic and contrary to creating a cleaner, greener, and more energy efficient country.

David Schussler

Director of Environmental Services

Reliable Tire Disposal