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Foundries create metal castings for use in the automotive, art, construction, agriculture, and mining industries. In this process, molten metal is poured into a mold, usually made from sand or ceramics.  As castings are created, the sand has to be removed and replaced due to abrasion from the high heat and mechanical stress. The sand that is removed is either recycled or disposed.

Green sand, the most commonly used in metal casting, is made up of silica sand or lake sand. Foundries may also use chemically bonded sand, which use a hardening component. 

Millions of tons of foundry sand waste are generated each year, with only a small percentage of this waste being recycled.  While a low percentage of this waste may be hazardous, most of the foundry sand waste could be recycled or reused for a number of other purposes.


Some state and local agencies regulate the beneficial uses of recycled foundry sand.  The following uses are common throughout the country.

1.      Use in other Raw Materials:  Foundry sand can be used in the manufacturing of other raw materials, such as asphalt, bricks, cement, grout, and concrete blocks.

2.      Structural Fill: Support bases or foundations for roadways, buildings, and parking lots can be constructed using foundry sand.

3.      Soil:  Foundry sand can be mixed to produce horticultural soils, potting soils, turf mixes, and compost.

4.      Landfills: Foundry sand can cover a landfill surface or be used as a backfill for landfill drainage systems.

5.      Pipe Bedding:  Trenches used for storm drains or sanitation sewers can utilize foundry sand as backfill.


1.      Though facilities may dismiss the beneficial use of foundry sand due to possible toxicity, many states encourage the recycling of foundry sand.

2.      Many beneficial uses of foundry sand require an additional crushing or screening process, in order to ensure usability.  Foundries that use a proactive screening system increase the likelihood that the sand will be reused and recycled.

3.      The availability of a close recycling processor is often a deterrent for foundries. Foundries can consider collaborating with other foundries to transport sand waste for recycling.

4.      Some uses of foundry sand require mass amounts not feasibility generated by one foundry.  Collaboration or a proper storage system could assist in usable quantities of recyclable sand.

5.      State and local agencies may require testing and sampling of foundry sand before it is approved for reuse or recycling.

6.      Consideration of the binders used in foundry sand should be noted.  Depending on the process and type of binders used, organic contaminants may develop under certain high heat conditions.

7.      Some state and local agencies have strict requirements on the use of foundry sand directly on land.  Processors should consider this when considering foundry sand as a composting or soil additive.

8.      Despite its proven recyclable value, another barrier to reusing foundry sand is its dark brown or black coloration.  This aversion is paired with some end users’ resistance to utilizing industrial by-products. Possible end users, including construction companies and local government agencies, should consider the numerous case studies and engineering reports, which confirm foundry sand’s comparable use in building and road projects. Focus can be placed on these types of projects, in which the recycled sand is covered or rarely seen.


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