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    First, let’s clarify what beneficial reuse is. As defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, it is the reuse of a waste material that would otherwise be discarded in a manner that makes it a valuable commodity. That’s a very broad definition that provides little guidance for government agencies and private companies trying to reduce the amount of material entering the waste stream. For that specific guidance on what you should do with your waste, it’s necessary to look at solid waste management regulations at the state level.

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    Beneficial Reuse Designation

    State environmental protection (or conservation departments) have jurisdiction over what materials are solid waste. They typically have a process for granting a “Beneficial Use Designation (BUD)”, with this label waste materials are no longer classed as solid waste.

    For example, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation published a list of predetermined BUDs, which includes such materials as:

    • uncontaminated newsprint
    • wood pallets
    • sand and gravel from water system catch basins
    • waste tires
    • spent brewery grains
    • source-separated recyclables
    • granulated blast furnace slag
    • wood combustion ash
    • fats, oils, and grease
    • coal combustion fly ash and bottom ash

    Uncontaminated and Unadulterated Materials

    Materials with BUDs must be uncontaminated and/or unadulterated—for example, uncontaminated glass, concrete, or unadulterated wood and newspaper.

    To meet the BUD requirements for beneficial reuse without further approval, a material is considered uncontaminated if it does not contain or have any substance with potential to harm human health or the environment. For example, painted concrete would be considered contaminated if the paint is lead-based, but it would be uncontaminated if painted with non-toxic latex-based paint.

    BUDs for Specific Reuse Purposes

    Materials pre-approved for beneficial reuse are pre-approved for specific reuse purposes; not for any conceivable purpose. Here are some common examples drawn from the BUDs lists from several states:

    • ground granulated blast-furnace slag for use as a raw feed in the manufacture of cement and concrete
    • wood combustion ash for use as a soil additive
    • fly ash used for making concrete
    • gas-scrubbing byproducts to replace gypsum or calcium chloride
    • coal combustion bottom ash for use in cement, concrete, or asphalt