Not All Things Are Recycled Equal

Posted by Reno Ong

Recycling is one of the three sacred tenets of the waste hierarchy. Along with reducing and reusing, it has become a mantra for environmentally-conscious, sustainable living. As it happens, however, not everything can be recycled with the same impunity as paper or plastic.

Grist has a report detailing the potential hazards of recycling coal ash for other uses, prompting a more cautious mindset when it comes to utilizing industrial waste products:

Some of the reuses for coal ash, such as recycling it into concrete, are not very controversial even among environmental advocates, since they're believed to lock in toxic contaminants. But there are growing concerns about other reuses of coal ash. For example, the recent revelation that Chinese-manufactured drywall made with coal ash was releasing noxious chemicals inside people's homes spurred a CBS investigation that also found problems with U.S.-made drywall products. The discovery led the Consumer Product Safety Commission to call for a closer look at drywall products made with coal ash.
Not to say that we should stop recycling, but that we should be more cognizant of the safety of such undertakings beforehand. Much like anything else, eagerness without proper information can breed tragic consequences.

The lesson here? Know what you're doing before you recycle.

Head to Grist for the full post.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden