Reuse materials, MMA says

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LANSING — Reusing industrial byproducts may soon be the better option for manufacturers in an eco-friendly, cost-efficient world.

The Michigan Manufacturers Association is promoting recycling industrial byproducts as part of its legislative priorities, but first wants to change the law regarding whether or not these byproducts can be used.

“Every industry has some sort of product that comes out of it that is essentially benign. But millions of tons of products are currently required by law to go into a landfill,” said Mike Johnston, MMA vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs.

“It’s about the constraints under the law about when something is a waste and when something is a product,” Johnston said. “Generally, the concept is, if it comes out of a manufacturing facility as a byproduct, it must be waste.

“This is what gets in the way of the concept of recycling. If it’s first a waste, then the Solid Waste Act says you have to put it in a landfill. If it’s inert, you can use it for something. But usually if you’re going to use it for composting or some other use, it’s probably not exactly inert; it’s probably in between solid waste and inertness and it can never be reused,” said Johnston.

But one byproduct success story that has seen increased usage not only in the state but nationally is reusing fly ash — a product of coal-fired power plants.

Johnston explained that two kinds of ash disperse from burning coal — fly ash and bottom ash. Fly ash, a product that can be used in road paving material, is the ash that is captured by environmental control equipment, and is one of the more researched and used byproducts.

David Hand, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Michigan Technological University, said he and colleagues are researching the most efficient ways to use fly ash in construction materials.

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