Coal Emissions: Can’t you recycle coal ash?

recycled coal fly ash in a sink 

(Sink is concrete with 50% recycled fly ash)  Image by Jeremy Levine Design

One of the top news stories recently is the Tennessee coal ash pond disaster and the fact that millions of tons of toxic coal ash is being stored in surface ponds across 32 different states.  The issue being that while power plants are apparently being more closely monitored to reduce harmful coal emissions and air pollution, their coal ash disposal isn’t being monitored hardly at all.  But can’t they recycle the coal ash rather than loading it into ponds?

The answer is yes, most of it can be recycled.  It can be used in the construction of bridges, highways, carpets, sinks, bowling balls, etc.  Per a report from CNBC about 126 million tons of coal ash was created last year and more than 50 million tons was recycled and turned into other products.

Per this same article, if you replaced a ton of cement with a ton of coal ash, due to the CO2 generated during cement production, using the coal ash would actually reduce the CO2 footprint.

But one of the factors in recycling coal ash is being able to reduce the harmful carbon emissions during the burning process so there is less unburned carbon in the fly ash.  With less unburned carbon in the fly ash, more of it can be recycled and put to use, rather than piling up in ponds waiting for potential disaster.

So, when it comes to regulating, maybe it would make sense to require plants to use a proven liquid combustion catalyst, like Green Plus® that improves thermal efficiency and reduces the volume of unburned carbon in the fly ash.  This way more coal ash could be recycled and less “stored” in ponds across the U.S.

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