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Beneficial use of industrial byproducts

2023 Annual Certification

Online reporting for the 2023 Annual Certification for the beneficial use of industrial byproducts is available as of Jan. 3 and due April 1, 2024. Beneficial use generators and storage facilities will receive an email with a reporting link and instructions on how to submit an Annual Certification. Please refer to the “Annual certification” tab below for more details.

Wisconsin's voluntary beneficial use of industrial byproducts program encourages the use of industrial byproducts in a productive manner as an alternative to sending these materials to solid waste landfills. Industrial byproducts may include:

  • paper mill sludge;
  • combustion ash, including coal combustion residuals such as fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag and material captured in flue gas desulfurization systems;
  • ferrous, steel, aluminum foundry excess system sand and aluminum slag;
  • byproducts from the production of lime including lime kiln dust; and
  • nonhazardous solid waste with similar characteristics as determined by the Department of Natural Resources.

Waste materials that are not regulated under the beneficial use program include:

  • post-consumer waste or the byproducts of combusting or processing post-consumer waste;
  • ash from solid waste incinerators;
  • iron and steel foundry slag exempted under ss. 289.01(33) and 287.29, Wis. Stats.;
  • dredge material regulated under s. NR 500.08(3) Wis. Adm. Code.

The program encourages environmentally responsible use of industrial byproducts to preserve resources, conserve energy, and reduce or eliminate the need for landfill disposal, as well as reduce the need for additional quarries and soil borrow pits. Approximately 3 million tons of industrial byproducts are generated in Wisconsin each year.

Section 289.05(4), Wis. Stats., encourages beneficial use of industrial byproducts. Since the law passed in 1985, the DNR has approved many beneficial uses, at first on a case-by-case basis, then under general exemptions. Chapter NR 538, Wis. Adm. Code, first enacted in 1997, provides the regulatory framework for using industrial byproducts in a beneficial way.

The industrial byproducts listed at the top of this page, along with some other types of solid waste, may also be suitable for use in public works projects.

How to participate in the program

Generators of industrial byproducts may choose to participate in the beneficial use program and follow its requirements, including reporting to the DNR.

Initial certification

To participate in the program, a generator must characterize the industrial byproduct material(s) intended for beneficial use in accordance with s. NR 538.06 and compare it to the standards in the appendix to determine potential eligible uses. Once the industrial byproduct material has been characterized properly, the generator, or the generator's designee, must report the results of this characterization to the DNR using Form 4400-197.

The DNR will reply with a written concurrence within 10 business days, provided the applicant meets the applicable criteria. The DNR has the option of concurring with the characterization, requesting additional information or analysis, determining that a case-specific approval is required, or issuing a non-concurrence decision.

Many beneficial uses allowed under NR 538 can proceed without specific approval once the DNR has concurred with the “eligible uses” from the initial certification. Additional DNR notification and concurrence may be needed for certain geotechnical fill applications.

The DNR may approve eligible uses for industrial byproducts that do not meet the listed characterization criteria on a case-specific basis in accordance with s. NR 538.09. The initial characterization includes a bulk analysis and a water leach test on a representative sample of the byproduct material in accordance with ss. NR 538.06(2) and NR 538.06(3).

Please contact the DNR beneficial use coordinator if you have any questions concerning participation in the program or the eligible beneficial uses of the material.


NR 538 requires each generator of industrial byproducts that have been beneficially used under NR 538,  operator of a non-exempt storage facility for industrial byproducts, or the designee of the generator or operator, to submit recertification information used to determine the eligible use of each industrial byproduct every four years or after a process change in accordance with s. NR 538.06(5). The information may be submitted using Form 4400-197.

A representative sample of each industrial byproduct must be recharacterized in accordance with ch. NR 538 Appendix, Tables 1 and 2, at a minimum of once every four years from the date of the initial certification or the last recharacterization. Recharacterization is not required for any industrial byproduct of which less than 1,000 cubic yards were beneficially used or stored for beneficial use in any calendar year during the previous four-year period.

Annual certification

NR 538 requires industrial byproduct generators participating in the beneficial use program to report to the DNR every year on their reuse activities. The report, which covers activity during the previous calendar year, is generally available in January and must be submitted to the DNR by April 1.

The DNR strongly encourages electronic reporting through an online reporting system. For generators unable to use the online system, Form 4400-198 is still available.

Annual reporting process

Beneficial use generators and storage facility operators will receive an email announcement notifying them that the Annual Certification form is open and available. Generators and operators can access their reports via a unique URL included in the email. There is no login required. You can save the form and return to it later by accessing it with the same URL.

Once you have completed and submitted the report, you will receive a confirmation email along with a copy of the report. Once you have received this email, the process is complete. The report preparer no longer has to go through the DNR Switchboard, so submittal of a signature page or certification form is not required.

If you have questions, need to change a contact, or would like to submit additional reports or recertification analyses, email them or send them to the following address:

Beneficial Use Coordinator - WA/5
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921

Project notification

Each generator, or a person designated by the generator such as a broker, must submit written notification to the department prior to initiating a geotechnical fill project when required under ss. NR 538.10(2) and NR 538.12 using Form 4400-199.

For proposed projects that require submission of a written notification, the DNR will reply with a written concurrence within 10 business days, provided the applicant meets the applicable criteria. If the DNR determines that the proposal does not demonstrate that the project will meet the applicable criteria, the DNR will provide a written notice of non-concurrence within 10 business days, noting any deficiencies and allowing the applicant an opportunity to correct them or provide additional information.