Blog   |   May 20th, 2015 New Beneficial Reuse Rules Support Projects and Businesses in Michigan


Businesses across the US are increasingly recognizing the benefits of a circular economy to address growing resource constraints– not just the environmental benefits of reducing footprint size, but also the potential cost savings, brand image and risk management benefits.

Due to recent rule changes, it has now become easier for businesses operating in Michigan to find alternatives to the landfill disposal of manufacturing by-products. These recent changes provide industry an opportunity to collaborate across the entire supply chain to reduce waste through diversion and reuse.

Rule Change Impacts Sustainability

Michigan’s recently updated Beneficial Use By-Products Amendments under Part 115 allow more flexibility to divert waste by-products to productive uses. In general, the new rules view wastes as a resource, something corporate sustainability efforts should remain mindful of. Diversion of materials from disposal to reuse can improve a company’s brand and in some cases its bottom line, while off-setting the use of some natural resources for certain purposes. Also, corporate sustainability professionals need to be cognizant of how this fits into their company’s existing Environmental Health & Safety (EHS)/Sustainability/Environmental Management System (EMS) programs, which may require calculation of greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and other offsets for annual reporting.

Reuse: What and How

A wide range of materials are already designated as Beneficial Use By-Products, such as foundry sand (ferrous and aluminum), coal ash and coal ash bottoms, and cement kiln dust. Through Michigan’s program other materials can now be diverted including:

  • Stamp sands
  • Sand blasting media from new products
  • Lime softening residuals
  • Sludge
  • Ash
  • Tank bottoms
  • Process waste residuals
  • Non-recyclable paper, wood and plastic

Materials that are not already designated may be diverted by petitioning the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for reuse, where appropriate. A new petition process is under development; in the interim, the Rule 118 method is still used.

Michigan’s revised standard recognizes a number of materials that may be used in one or more of five Beneficial Use Categories, including:

  1. Bonded by lime, cement or asphalt.
  2. Construction fill under impervious surface/road shoulder.
  3. Land applied (fertilizer, soil conditioner or liming agent and controlled by Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, MDARD).
  4. Remediate/treat waste or used as fill at landfills.
  5. Soil blending.

Foundry sand is good example of a material that should be evaluated for reuse, as it potentially qualifies for all five categories. Practical uses include fill material under specified conditions and as cold weather road grit (which may be of interest to local municipalities, as the price of road salt remains high).

Evaluating Potential Reuse

Criteria for qualifying as a beneficial use vary by material and the proposed beneficial use category, but generally starts with the assessment of the by-product. Information necessary to a preliminary reuse evaluation includes source(s) of material, analytical characterization by waste stream, and volume and frequency of by-product generation. For some sources, the volume/frequency of generation may not justify the costs of the full evaluation, or the risks associated with the material being used at an alternate location, but for others the tangible and intangible benefits can be significant.

If appropriate for reuse, finding a partner which can use the by-product in accordance with the rules is next. Activities at this step include (depending upon by-product), petitioning MDEQ for prior approval, additional analysis if needed (e.g. TCLP/SPLP), permitting through MDARD if Beneficial Use 3, documentation of off-site management, assistance with reuse compliance and annual reporting.

Tips for Success

A couple of points to keep in mind while evaluating a potential beneficial reuse:

  1. The by-product generator is responsible for characterization and certification of the material for reuse.
  2. Materials can be stockpiled up to 3 years awaiting reuse, at which time 75% of material must have been reused.
  3. Diversions of 1,000 cubic yards of most by-products requires annual reporting to the MDEQ.
  4. Use of more than 5,000 cubic yards at one location requires prior MDEQ approval.
  5. Beneficial Use 2, Construction Fill, has thickness and cover limitations (e.g., 4-ft. thickness under an impervious cover).
  6. Part 201 Residential Cleanup Criteria apply, but materials with constituent concentrations exceeding criteria can be used under pre-approved conditions with proper engineering and institutional controls.

For additional information, please refer to the MDEQ website for links to rules and guidance.

These changes provide companies with even more flexibility to manage manufacturing residuals in a proactive and sustainable manner. Evaluation of reuse options for beneficial by-products can be a relatively simple process, and production managers, EHS experts and material managers should make this assessment part of their routine operations. TRC’s professionals are adept at evaluating beneficial by-product uses, as well as other sustainability efforts. For assistance with evaluations and developing a proactive approach, please contact TRC, or share your experiences in the comments section below.

Contributors to this blog include Kurt Gerdes, Remediation Market Director, Karen Lutz, Sustainability Director and Graham Crockford, Senior Client Services Manager.

Blog Author

Doug Kilmer, P.G.

Doug Kilmer, P.G.

Doug Kilmer is a Client Service Manager at TRC. He has over 23 years of professional experience representing stakeholders’ technical, logistical and financial interests. He is an expert in site characterization, legacy site and remedial risk management, and Brownfield redevelopment. Doug’s expertise includes regulatory interaction, peer review, work plan preparation and implementation, and contractor supervision. He is adept at defining and characterizing hydrogeologic systems and remediating a variety of environmental contamination, and has worked at impacted sites across the U.S. Contact Doug at