It Matters What You Call Coal Ash. Guess Who Says So?

            No one wants to be responsible for damaging a recycling program that prevents millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. So proponents of a “hazardous” designation for coal ash when it is disposed often claim the label won’t affect recycling. Some especially credible government agencies have disagreed for many years.

            In June of 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Energy – authored a study for Congress regarding “Increasing the Usage of Recovered Mineral Components in Federally Funded Projects Involving Procurement of Cement or Concrete.” Recycling coal ash was a major focus of the study.

            Section Four of the study addresses barriers to increasing recycling rates for materials like coal ash and cites a long list of “barriers” studies stretching back to at least 1994.  In every barriers study, the issue of waste regulations arises.  For instance, the 2008 EPA study concludes:

“Although many states are acting to facilitate the use of RMCs in concrete, some state solid waste regulations governing the management of RMCs may make it more difficult to beneficially use these materials.”

“Another barrier to the expanded beneficial use of RMCs concerns the safety and health risks – real or perceived – associated with these materials…”

            Study after study by the EPA and others have concluded that solid waste regulations often negatively affect recycling efforts.  Furthermore, a “hazardous waste” designation for ash disposal would create a perceived risk that would erect the biggest barrier of all.

            Environmental policy makers should encourage safe and environmentally beneficial recycling as a preferred alternative to disposal.  Designating a material “hazardous waste” would only serve to ensure that more of it gets disposed.

The 2008 Report to Congress is just one of the studies and reports included in the new “More Info” section of the Citizens for Recycling First web site. Read it for yourself.


Posted by: on: Mar 23, 2010 @ 12:20