Waste Tire Burning for Energy Production in Cemex Plant, Ponce, Puerto Rico

A CEMEX cement factory is located in Ponce, Puerto Rico. In 2002 it started to burn used tires to save costs. As in many other cases around the world, the neighbours strongly complained.


Mexico Cement, better known as CEMEX, is a cement production company based in Portland Monterrey Mexico which purchased Puerto Rican Cement in 2002 to keep expanding in the global market. The cement plant in Ponce Puerto Rico started to burn tires to produce  energy which would be used in the cement plant. Ponce is known for being exposed to different pollutants because of the industrial density. That’s why the Environmental Quality Board (JCA) placed a Air Resource Station which measures the quality of the air in this municipality. The municipality as a whole has been in the range of acceptable air conditions, but the area where CEMEX plant is, has a high concentration of emissions which affects the communities next to it. CEMEX during the year 2005 was the industry with most emissions in Ponce tons that year only. In July 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted a CEMEX a permit to create energy for their production by burning tires. 80% of the production costs in cement production  are for energy. They proposed to the Solid Waste Administration (ADS) that they would use 25% of all waste tires in the country to produce energy considering the law 171 which was then amended. This would solve part of the problem the country had with tire accumulation in landfills and tire shops which reached 4.7 million tires annually. CEMEX invested $21,000,000 in machinery and emission control equipment for the tire burning process. Different communities in Ponce where concerned about these practices since burning tires releases chlorine which when heated creates dioxins that are carcinogens. Even though the company launched a pamphlet explaining very briefly how they were going to manage the waste tires, they never showed how the emissions where going to be handled and how effective the emission equipment was. This caused protests against the waste tire burnings. A spokesmen from Acción Comunitaria Ponceña por un Ambiente Sano (APCAS) stated in one of the protest that they will reach civil disobedience at the protest if necessary. Pablo Segarra, who is part of the Environmental Board of the College of Medical Surgeons, says that the burning of waste tires in CEMEX have left the college thunderstruck.  More than eighty citizens and APCAS demanded the Court of Appeals to revoke the permits CEMEX acquired. The Court of Appeals, on 2008, revoked the permits and demanded CEMEX to be more explicit on the types of emissions and how they would control it, if they wish to continue with the burnings. With the emergence of "Dengue" in the country, the court of appeals ratified in 2010 the permits CEMEX obtained, allowing burning of tires. Leon Rodriguez, a representatives of APCAS, mentioned that CEMEX will begin operations in March 2011, but till now there's no information or signs of the process being executed. There's a lot of controversy with the Court of Appeals permitting CEMEX to keep operating since there's still no Environmental Impact Assessment and the company hasn't approached the communities nearby. This conflict is one more case around the world of communities complaining against waste incineration in cement kilns. The alliance GAIA  supports cross-border organizing against cement kiln incineration, including working with national coalitions, helping organize annual international gatherings, and challenging the policies and subsidies that sustain and expand this dangerous practice. GAIA members in many countries have also worked to stop this dirty practice by protesting against individual facilities and securing bans on the burning of certain kinds of waste.

Basic Data
NameWaste Tire Burning for Energy Production in Cemex Plant, Ponce, Puerto Rico
CountryPuerto Rico
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Incinerators
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project Details Approximatly 2million neumatics burned. The investment was 6.000.000 USD in machinery. 15,000,000 USD in emissions control equipment. The population affected are the communities around Ponce.

Burning waste in cement kilns is a form of incineration of waste. It results in emissions potentially harmful to people’s health and the environment. In order to make cement, high-temperature kilns are needed. Traditionally, coal is used in these kilns, but in the past two decades, many “alternative fuels” have been used. The term “alternative fuel” has often been used to disguise the fact that this “fuel” is actually waste, including tires, plastics, and petrochemical waste.
Level of Investment (in USD)21,000,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected PopulationCommunities around Cemex Ponce
Start Date2006
End Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesCEMEX from Mexico
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAccion Poncena Comunitaria por un Ambiente Sano (APCAS)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Global warming
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
OtherRisk of dioxine
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The Court of Appeals revoked the permits in 2008 because of the lack of transparency in the emission process. However, in December 2010 there was a court decision allowing tire burning. Leon Rodriguez, who is a representative of APCAS, mentioned that CEMEX will continue to burn tires in March 2011, but till this day the company hasn't burned tires.
Sources and Materials

Law of Waste Tire Management in the country emended, Law 171.
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La Perla del Sur, 22 Dic. 2010, En marzo reinicia la quema de gomas. El caso demoró 32 meses en corte, pero el veredicto llegó. El Tribunal de Apelaciones de San Juan ratificó el permiso que obtuvo Cemex Puerto Rico para quemar gomas en su planta de Ponce y generar, mediante un proceso denominado ‘valorización energética’, electricidad adicional para su consumo.
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Censuran reinicio de quema de gomas en planta cementera. 1/11/2011. El representante Luis “Tato” León Rodríguez se opuso hoy al reinicio de la quema de neumáticos en la planta de hormigón que opera en la ciudad la firma Cementos Mexicanos (Cemex). León Rodríguez rechazó el proyecto impulsado por la empresa en su planta principal de Ponce y generar, mediante un proceso denominado “valorización energética“. La quema de neumáticos comenzará durante el próximo mes de marzo. “Yo estoy en contra de la quema de gomas y por esa razón estamos opuestos a la decisión tomada", dijo León Rodríguez. Ante la decisión del Tribunal de Apelaciones de San Juan, el representante recomendó que se apele esa determinación.
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News on the accepted permits for waste tire burnings by the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Data of air quality in Puerto Rico.
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CEMEX Re-initiates Waste Tire Burning
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Protest at CEMEX Ponce against the waste tire burnings.
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CEMEX Ponce wants to burn waste tires again.
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Chronological History of Cemex in their website.
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Court of Appeals prohibits waste tire burnings.
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Media Links

Interview to citizens that live close the CEMEX Ponce. Part 1.
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Interview to citizens that live close the CEMEX Ponce. Part 2.
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Video of protests against the waste tire burnings.
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Protestan contra Cemex en Puerto Rico por quemar llantas. 22/4/2008
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Protest against waste tire burning in front of CEMEX. Citizens and former employees express their concerns.
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Other Documents

House of Representatives Final report on waste tire management in the country.
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Protests Protests in front of CEMEX Ponce against the waste tire burnings.
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Protest against CEMEX tire burnings. Protestors at a caravan in front of tire display float against the waste tire burnings.
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Tires in Cemex Tires in the facilities of CEMEX Ponce.
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Meta Information
ContributorEdgardo G. Nieves Duprey, [email protected], University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus.
Last update12/04/2017