The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the beneficial use of coal ash in the making of concrete and wallboard, the two largest options for recycling of the material.
The Washington-based agency said in a news release that it concluded that the use of encapsulated coal combustion residuals (CCR) in those materials is appropriate because they are comparable to virgin materials or below the agency’s health and environmental benchmarks.
The EPA used newly developed methodology to evaluate the use in concrete as a substitute for portland cement, and the use of flue gas desulfurization gypsum as a substitute for mined gypsum in wallboard.
These two uses account for almost half of the total amount of coal ash that is beneficially used.
“The protective reuse of coal ash advances sustainability by saving valuable resources, reducing costs, and lessening environmental impacts, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
Coal ash is formed when coal is burned in boilers that generate steam for power generation and industrial applications. Slightly more than half of coal ash is disposed of in dry landfills and surface impoundments. The remainder of coal ash is used beneficially, as well as in mining applications.
Earlier this month the EPA set a date of Dec. 19 (prompted by a lawsuit) to make final disposal rules for coal ash as a nonhazardous waste material.