Fly ash, or coal ash, is a waste product of coal-powered energy plants. In modern coal-powered plants, finely ground coal is burned at high temperatures. Fly ash is the fine powder composed of glass-like particles that remain after coal is burned in this fashion.
Some power plants just dump fly ash in large waste dumps, but others recycle it. Fly ash is a useful additive for concrete. Concrete made with fly ash and less portland cement is cheaper, easier to work with, doesn’t produce as much heat during setting, and can be more durable than concrete made solely with portland cement. The Federal Highway Administration has been encouraging construction companies to use fly ash-containing concrete for paving projects and other highway construction projects.
One reason why fly ash isn’t being recycled as often as it could be is due to fears that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will re-categorize fly ash as a hazardous waste. Once classified as a hazardous waste, the transport and use will have to follow stringent rules, making it less economical to use in construction. Many environmental and public health groups have been pushing to get fly ash classified as hazardous waste.
However, on December 19, 2014, the EPA announced it will not re-classify fly ash as hazardous waste. The construction industry heaved a sigh of relief and stated that they will be able to continue to recycle at least 30%, possibly more, of the fly ash produced in the U.S. each year. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association pointed out that if fly ash had been designated as hazardous waste, $105 billion of taxpayer’s money (over 20 years) would be squandered due to removal of fly ash from use in public road and building construction.
The EPA did, however, create new rules to regulate “dumping” of fly ash that is not being recycled. The new rules require that measures be taken to keep fly ash out of the water and the air. However, now that the fear of fly ash becoming a hazardous waste have been laid to rest, it is probable that even more fly ash will find uses as a recycled material and very little will end up just being dumped somewhere.
With this great news from the EPA, and with fuel prices dropping, the fly ash transportation industry should be booming soon. If you’re interested in getting fly ash or any other bulk dry powder transported, we are experts in that area.