Seeking a Safer Future for Electricity’s Coal Ash Waste
New ideas are emerging for recycling fly ash. The question is how to encourage them, while protecting people and ecosystems from the hazards of one of society's largest waste streams.
In the United States, where a catastrophic 2008 coal ash spill sullied land, rivers, and homes over 300 acres (121 hectares) of Tennessee, government and industry are locked in a dispute over future handling of the nettlesome by-product of fossil-fueled electricity.
(Related: "The High Cost of Cheap Coal")
The good news: Waste from coal power plants doesn't have to be a waste.
It can be recycled into a wide variety of materials, from concrete to fertilizer. Fly ash, the fine, powdery silica material that is part of the coal ash waste stream, in fact, has an array of physical and chemical properties that have led to inventive ideas for new applications. Entrepreneurs are looking at ideas for using it to build lighter