Information for Foundries


AFS has established a goal of achieving 50 percent beneficial reuse of foundry sand by the year 2015.  In order to do so, the industry needs to double the amount of sand reuse and recycling that was reported in the initial AFS benchmarking survey, undertaken in 2005 and 2006. That will require individual metalcasting facilities to take action, especially those who have stayed on the sidelines in the past due to uncertainties about what was possible or how to begin a recycling program.

Sand recycling and reuse should be part of a foundry operator’s overall goal to improve efficiencies and save money.  Additionally, local sand recycling projects can build bridges–both literally and metaphorically–that improve public perception and community relations.  American manufacturers who take action to become more sustainable companies will improve their competitive position and supply-chain relationships. For many facilities, sand recycling will be one aspect of their plans to achieve ISO certification.

In the past, the excuse could be made that sand reuse or recycling couldn’t happen because of regulatory or technical barriers.  As a result of actions initiated and supported by AFS-FIRST and other partners, those barriers are falling by the wayside.  So they no longer constitute an excuse for inaction on the part of foundries.

Where to Start

AFS and AFS-FIRST have created a number of Tools & Resources for foundries to start or improve their sand recycling programs.  Foundry managers should become familiar with the contents of this website, and also become engaged with AFS-FIRST. Pay particular attention to Applications and Case Studies, which highlight different ways in which foundries have successfully reused their sands. Sand reuse is usually a topic at the annual AFS Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Conference. The AFS Environmental 101 workshop has a section on sand management for reuse.  U.S. EPA and some state regulatory agencies also present workshops on Industrial Materials Recycling that often include foundry sand information. So there is a wealth of information and support available for foundries that are committed to reusing their sands.

A very simple starting point is to download the brochure, Turning Used Sand into a Marketable Resource:  Best Management Practices for Beneficial Reuse. This lays out the most basic information that foundry managers need to think about prior to launching a program.

Once a foundry has made a decision to pursue external sand reuse, obtaining a copy of Beneficial Use Manual for Foundries should be the next step. This manual was an outgrowth of a workshop presented at the 2007 AFS Environmental Health & Safety Conference. Several foundry operators presented practical, down to earth pointers on how they developed their sand reuse programs, complete with examples and illustrations. The manual is organized into chapters on:

I. Why Should Your Foundry Develop a Recycling Program?
II. What You Need to Know Before You Begin
III. What You Need to Do to Get Ready
IV. Who You Need to Talk To
V. How to Tell Your Story

Each metalcasting facility will have a unique program, but the elements described in the guidance manual will be part of all successful programs. It is important to remember that end markets are looking at using debris-free sand as a PRODUCT, so segregating waste streams is a key element of any successful sand reuse program.  

Review Regulatory Guidelines

As noted in both manuals, used foundry sand is a regulated solid waste in most states, and state regulations vary from state to state. Metalcasting facilities generally already know whether their sands or other waste streams exhibit any characteristics that may cause them to be classified as hazardous or toxic; those materials are subject to Federal regulation and must be handled differently. Few properly segregated metalcasting sands would test as hazardous under RCRA, the exception sometimes being sands from brass or bronze foundries whose castings contain leaded alloys. However, it is important to note that, in most states the simple fact that sand is non-hazardous according to the TCLP test does not automatically qualify it for beneficial reuse and recycling outside the facility.

State regulations for metalcasting sand reuse vary widely, and are subject to change. For example, AFS-FIRST is working with U.S. EPA and ASTSWMO to provide state regulators with information showing that ferrous and aluminum facility sands are generally safe for soils-based applications such as horticultural soils, landscaping soils, and unbound construction uses.  State regulations may not have caught up yet with the current state of the science, as it is a time-consuming and difficult task for states to change their regulations.

It is therefore very important that metalcasting facilities, or their sand marketing partners, understand what the regulations are that govern foundry sand reuse in their state. To assist in that process, please consult the regulatory locator for your state. But do not assume that the information in the locator is either current or complete because this tool is updated directly by state agencies. It is always a good idea to check with the beneficial use coordinator in your state. If your state is not listed in the locator, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will not permit foundry sand reuse. Contact the beneficial use coordinator in your state environmental agency, who is generally in the solid waste or land division. If you are unable to locate a knowledgeable person in that manner, contact ASTSWMO’s Solid Waste Program Director and ask for the appropriate contact in your state.

Finding Suitable Reuse Projects

The Beneficial Reuse Manual for Foundries has an extensive discussion about different strategies for matching the sand generated from an individual foundry with local markets. Additionally, the Case Study section of the website describes a variety of sand reuse projects undertaken by foundries throughout the U.S. Remember that the case studies are simply a snapshot of different approaches taken by different metalcasting facilities and there are many other options that may be suitable for a specific facility in a specific location. Metalcasting facilities have sometimes developed partnerships with local earthwork partners, asphalt companies, or brick or block manufacturers.Some facilities have formed cooperatives to jointly process and market their sands. As the regulatory situation permits, facilities may also find that local nurseries and landscaping companies will be interested in using their sands to create manufactured soils for horticulture or landscaping. 

METALCASTING FACILITIES INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN LOCAL SAND REUSE PROJECTS SHOULD COMPLETE THE AFS-FIRST METALCASTING SAND REUSE SURVEY. The survey consists of 12 simple questions, such as how much sand the foundry generates and who is the proper sand reuse contact for the metalcasting facilitiy. Facilities who complete the questionnaire will have this information linked to their listing in the mapping program; this will help to facilitate their sand marketing programs. Like all other web-based tools, the foundry-mapping tool is only as effective as the information it provides.  Sand foundries whose listings are incorrect in the mapping tool should contact AFS directly to update their listings in the Source Directory. Facilities planning to market their sands should be sure to keep their listings current in the Metalcasting Sand Reuse Survey. 

AFS also provides another web-based tool to help foundries locate some reuse markets.  In 2006, AFS staff researched listings of asphalt, concrete and cement producers in the top 10 foundry states.  The searchable Beneficial Reuse Directory is accessible under the EHS page of the main AFS website.  For many facilities, local telephone directories and web search engines will provide the most up-to-date listings of local earthwork contractors, nurseries, asphalt and ready-mix concrete companies, and other potential local reuse partners. City and county public works departments may also be good partners for facilities whose sands are appropriate for local construction projects.