Lehigh Tests Recycled Plastics as Kiln Fuel

The Lehigh Cement plant in Glens Falls, N.Y., will burn recycled plastics, paper and other materials as a test fuel this month, reported the Albany Times Union. The plant, which normally burns coal in its kilns, will burn the test fuel through Jan. 21 and review pollution emission results with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

In May 2014, Lehigh got permission for the tests from the Department of Environmental Conservation as part of its state air pollution permit. The plant is testing a Pennsylvania-processed material, called Refuel Engineered Fuel, as a potential replacement for the coal.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Refuel material is 30 to 70 percent plastic, 10 to 40 percent wood, up to 20 percent paper, and up to 20 percent other materials. Plastics and other materials are non-recyclable materials from plastics recycling that would otherwise have to be disposed of in landfills.

Lehigh’s first test of the fuel began Dec. 8, and Department of Environmental Conservation expects the company to submit the results of its air pollution tests sometime next month.

Lehigh spokeswoman Joan Gerhard said using the Refuel product “could significantly reduce the company’s energy costs and reduce the plant’s reliance on coal, making it more competitive in an extremely difficult marketplace.”

She added that Lehigh was “only interested in using the alternate fuel if it performs as well as or better than coal in its emissions profile, and also in our manufacturing process.”

In 2010, Lehigh tested a similar recycled fuel sold by International Paper Co. under the brand name Enviro-Fuel Cubes. Emissions tests showed “minor increases” in dioxin and furans as well as small increases in heavy metals like chromium, lead and nickel, but results “were well within allowable emission limits,” according to the tentative Department of Environmental Conservation permit.

Gerhard said although the fuel cubes had “promising results, we had doubts that the Massachusetts company that manufactured the material could produce the material to our specifications, in the quantity needed. Therefore, further testing of that fuel was placed on hold and Lehigh never used it in its routine manufacturing operations.”

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