Ashes to Concrete


One man's trash is another man's treasure is more than an old adage to several American companies. It is the key to their financial success. These firms are recycling the ash from trash incinerators and coal-burning electric generating stations and giving it new life as a construction material. It can be used in concrete, cement, and a variety of road building and maintenance projects.

The technology has been widely used in Europe, but has never caught on in the United States. Most ash is still buried in huge pits and must be constantly monitored to meet environmental standards. It is an expensive process, while recycling the ash can actually generate income.

Southwest Public Service Co. near Amarillo, Texas, recycles about 500,000 tons of ash a year. In 1997, it made $275,000 from the waste product and last year its revenues grew to $400,000. The ash is being used not only in concrete and cement, but also for road maintenance and de-icing operations by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Environmental Capital Holdings Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida, imported its ash recycling technology from Holland and is now exporting it to Japan. The company has designed portable units that can process three to five tons of ash per hour, turning it into an aggregate material that can be used in concrete blocks. It has signed a 15-year licensing deal for these mobile units with a Tokyo-based company.

With a virtually unlimited supply of ash, it looks like these companies have found a profitable niche in the recycling world.

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Linda is responsible for the PERC web sites, media relations, the national journalism conference, and the media fellows program. She is author of Forest Fires, part of a series of  environmental education books for high school students. She also wrote and produced Square One, a newsletter that introduced grassroots environmentalists to market...
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