Spent foundry sand’s second life: OK to use in some soils

A study by two OARDC scientists played a key role in a recent public health and environmental risk assessment of reusing spent foundry sands, or SFS, in certain soil-related uses. The sands are a byproduct of the metal casting industry.

Nicholas Basta, professor of soil and environmental science, and Elizabeth Dayton, research scientist, both in the School of Environment and Natural Resources, did an intensive analysis of SFS in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

Their work supported a risk assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which found that silica-based SFS from steel, iron and aluminum foundries, when used in certain soil-related applications, including making soil blends for residential use, are not a threat to public health or the environment and in fact have a range of green benefits.

Reusing spent foundry sand has a range of green benefits.

Good for environment, industry

  • Metal foundries buy and use virgin sand to make metal casting molds and cores. The foundries reuse the sand, but over time, heat and mechanical abrasion make it unsuitable for further casting. This spent sand is then either recycled in a nonfoundry use or is landfilled — an expense for the foundries.
  • Now, possible new uses for the sand include being an ingredient in manufactured soils and an ingredient in soil-less potting media — potential product opportunities for companies.
  • To contact the scientists: Nicholas Basta at basta.4@osu.edu; Elizabeth Dayton at dayton.15@osu.edu.

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