How to Recycle Drywall

drywall recycling

CC Flickr photo of drywall in need of recycling by clutterbusters.

With the huge amount of new homes being built in the U.S. every year, it’s not surprising that landfill sites are filled with hundreds of thousands of tons of drywall. Not to mention houses which are renovated, refurbished or torn down. Around 40 billion square feet of drywall (or gypsum drywall, to give it its full name) is produced in the North America every single year, and because of the nature of house building, much of this is wasted. On average, every single day 40,000 tons of drywall is dumped in landfill, so it is an enormous problem. Many landfill sites have now banned drywall.

Can drywall be recycled?

In theory, yes. And very slowly, recycling facilities are springing up in the U.S. to be able to deal with this. Gypsum makes up around 90% of a piece of drywall, and in theory if this can be recovered then it can be recycled. However, there are many challenges involved in doing so, including the collection and separation of the materials.

Currently, the main problem is that it is cheaper to dump drywall in landfill than it is to recycle. But very gradually people’s attitude towards this is changing, and it is now possible to recycle drywall in many U.S. states.

To find out the possibilities of recycling drywall near where you live, visit www.earth911.com and enter your zip code.

What are the possibilities for the recycled drywall?

When drywall is recycled it can be used for a few different purposes, most obviously the manufacture of new drywall. It can also be used in the production of cement, as an additive for compost, to produce fertilizer and added to soil and crops for drainage use.

It has also been proposed that the recycled gypsum may be suitable for various construction products, animal bedding and even in the fabrication of flea powder.

But what about the resources used in the drywall recycling process?

Because around 90% of drywall can be recycled, it is definitely worth doing. But there are many issues which have to be addressed in doing so. These include human and environmental safety issues, along with the possibility of asbestos or lead paint contaminating the gypsum. Each state has its own regulatory requirements for the recycling of drywall. These issues are one of the reasons why it is still commonplace for drywall to be dumped in landfill.

Over recent years there has been a new concept of recycling drywall at construction sites. This has an added bonus of not burning up oil and diesel by transporting the drywall to a different place for recycling. In this case the gypsum is used in the soil or as plant nutrition.

Some people call it drywall, sheetrock, wallboard and gypsumboard, by the way. But it’s all typically the same stuff.

Drywall Recycling Resources

The DRS web site explains in detail about recycling drywall, and the benefits.

USA Gypsum recycles drywall, and you can learn more about how it works at their site.

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