Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 153–175 | Cite as

Review of fly ash inertisation treatments and recycling

  • Annalisa Zacco
  • Laura Borgese
  • Alessandra Gianoncelli
  • Rudolf P. W. J. Struis
  • Laura E. Depero
  • Elza Bontempi


Fly ash (FA) is a by-product of power, and incineration plants operated either on coal and biomass, or on municipal solid waste. FA can be divided into coal fly ash, obtained from power plant burning coal, flue gas desulphurisation FA, that is, the by-product generated by the air pollution control equipment in coal-fired power plants to reduce the release of SO2, biomass FA produced in the plants for thermal conversion of biomass and municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI) FA, that is, the finest residue obtained from the scrubber system in a MSWI plant. Because of the large amount produced in the world, fly ash is now considered the world’s fifth largest material resource. The composition of FA is very variable, depending on its origins; then, also pollutants can be very different. In this frame, it is fundamental to exploit the chemical or physical potentials of FA constituents, thus rendering them second-life functionality. This review paper is addressed to FA typology, composition, treatment, recycling, functional reuse and metal and organic pollutants abatement. Because of the general growing of environmental awareness and increasing energy and material demand, it is expected that increasing recycling rates will reduce the pressure on demand for primary raw materials, help to reuse valuable materials which would otherwise be wasted and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and processing.


Fly ash Heavy metals Organic pollutants Recycling 

List of abbreviations


Acid extraction sulphide stabilisation process


Air pollution control


Colloidal silica medium to obtain safe inert


Direct current




Fly ash


Flue gas desulphurisation


Life cycle assessments


Loss of ignition


Municipal solid waste incineration


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon


Polychlorinated bifenyl






Persistent hazardous organic pollutants


Rice husk ash




Toxic equivalent



The authors from the Brescia University (Italy) acknowledge LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Community (LIFE+ 2011 project ENV/IT/ 256) and RPWJ Struis thanks Prof. Chr. Ludwig (EPFL, Switzerland) for valuable discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annalisa Zacco
    • 1
  • Laura Borgese
    • 1
  • Alessandra Gianoncelli
    • 1
  • Rudolf P. W. J. Struis
    • 2
    • 3
  • Laura E. Depero
    • 1
  • Elza Bontempi
    • 1
  1. 1.INSTM and Chemistry for Technologies LaboratoryBrescia UniversityBresciaItaly
  2. 2.General Energy Research (ENE), Laboratory for Bioenergy and Catalysis (LBK)Paul Scherrer InstituteVilligenSwitzerland
  3. 3.École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL-ENAC-IIE)LausanneSwitzerland

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