Up to three million used tyres are being diverted away from landfills and used to fire up the Golden Bay Cement works in Whangārei.
The Ministry for the Environment part funded the $25 million project with a grant of $16 million awarded through its Waste Minimisation Fund to Fletcher Building, which operates Golden Bay Cement.
The project opened at the Portland cement works on Tuesday and Fletcher Building said it means up to three million used tyres won't be going to landfill each year to instead be used in cement manufacturing.
The significant upgrade to New Zealand's only end-to-end cement plant, was officially opened by Environment Minister David Parker.
"This innovative project is a win-win-win for the environment. It reduces a significant waste problem, reuses a valuable resource, and reduces carbon emissions by about 13,000 tonnes a year," Parker said.
"By using old tyres as fuel, Golden Bay Cement will reduce coal use by 15 per cent and iron sands use reduced by 5000 tonnes a year, without harmful effects from air discharges. It will divert from landfill or stockpiles about 42 per cent of the estimated three million waste tyres in Auckland each year – making a big dent in New Zealand's largest catchment of old tyres.
"New Zealand needs to address its longstanding problem with waste, so we can become the low waste, low emissions economy we need to be. I congratulate Fletchers for making an investment that will bring long-term benefits and help us manage our waste responsibly."
Fletcher Building CEO Ross Taylor said the plant opening is a landmark sustainability project for manufacturing in New Zealand.
"Using end-of-life tyres in cement manufacturing helps to solve a significant waste problem in New Zealand as well as improve the sustainability of a key building material. Up to 50 per cent of the 6.3 million waste tyres created in New Zealand each year will now be used in cement manufacturing at the Golden Bay Cement plant instead of going into landfill,'' he said.
"There are no other large industries in New Zealand that can readily or cleanly consume the volume of waste tyres our Portland cement plant can.
"Waste tyres have been used successfully in many cement plants throughout the world. We are proud to bring this world-leading technology to New Zealand as well as our investment in local manufacturing jobs and capability.
"The project was a significant investment over several years that involved upgrades to the plant, with specialist equipment from Denmark installed to feed the tyres into the cement manufacturing process. With the upgrades now completed, we have been successfully using tyres since February 22. The tyres are combusted at around 1400degC and the rubber, metal and any ash are combined into the cement.''