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What do to with ash from coal and wood: Disposal methods and facts

Dealing with waste of any kind can be difficult, but after hosting a barbecue or using a firepit, many people don’t know what to do with the ashes left behind. Read on to learn more about coal and wood ash, and how you can safely dispose of it.

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Wood ash is natural and is simply a result of setting wood alight and waiting for it to completely burn away.

Coal is, in itself, a completely natural substance, however, it must be mined in order to be used. The earliest recorded coal mining was in the fourth millennium BC in China, although widespread coal mining was initiated during the Industrial Revolution as a way of providing consistent heat for steam engines.

What is ash made from and how is it made? 

Wood is most commonly produced in managed forests, in which companies will buy a swathe of land and plant saplings in an ordered manner throughout, harvesting them when they are grown.

Coal can’t be produced quickly, as it is created over a process lasting millions of years within the earth. The respective ash is created when the materials are burned.

Coal and wood ash disposal 

Ash from coal should be allowed to cool, then disposed of in a general waste receptacle to be removed at a later point in time. Wood ash, however, can be composted due to its high nutritional value, supporting the growth of plants in the garden. Coal can’t be used in this manner due to the lack of nutritional content.

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What are the problems with wood and coal ash waste? 

Coal ash is considered to be a hazardous material. Coal-fired power stations report a higher level of toxic pollutants in the surrounding areas, so allowing coal ash to seep into freshwater lakes, rivers or nature reserves can cause problems for the local flora and fauna.

The primary risk with wood ash is that it may not have cooled properly prior to disposal. In this case, the ash may cause a fire in its disposal location, leading to severe environmental harm.

Alternatives to coal and wood ash 

If you don’t wish to create coal or wood ash that needs to be disposed of, there are several alternatives available. For example, if you regularly light a fire in your garden to provide heat, electrical heaters could be a waste-free alternative that can keep you warm whilst not risking the environment.

If you use coal to power a barbecue, you can always switch to an outdoor gas cooker. Offering the same experience as a typical coal barbecue, an outdoor gas cooker comes without the need to dispose of ashes afterwards. When your gas canister is empty, you simply need to find a recycling centre that accepts canisters instead.

Facts about coal ash and wood ash 

• Some types of especially fine coal ash (typically ground in power stations) can be used in concrete or filler for construction.

• Coal ash used in construction can resist chemical attacks and has a very low risk of cracking under extreme heat.

• Wood ash can be used in acidic soil to balance the pH of the composition and make it easier for plants to grow. However, wood ash is useless in a fruit garden, as fruit plants prefer acidic soil.

• In winter months, wood ash can be used to thaw ice on walkways, paths and roads.

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Where can you take ash to recycle 
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You can dispose of coal ash by simply placing it in your general waste bin. Wood ash can be either placed in your general waste bin or sprinkled on your garden to encourage plant growth. Please remember to allow all ash to cool before attempting to dispose of it. You may damage your bin or kill the plants in your garden. There is also the potential to start a fire on your property if you are not careful with ash disposal.

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