Recycle Your Walls

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Drywall, also called sheetrock or gypsum board makes up close to 100% of the wal material in new construction and remodeling. Drywall is much in the green building news these days because of the potential to use recycled material. The paper surface of drywall has been pretty much 100% recycled paper for years, but the gypsum core is another story.

The mining of gypsum can be a very environmentally damaging operation. It is a dirty job, done in open pits, exposing both the land and air to environmental damage. There is some sheetrock core material that is manufactured synthetically, but even though this process avoids the mining issues, it is still a process with significant environmental and energy costs.

Gypsum, however is a material that can be reused very easily once it is reclaimed from existing products. Another big plus for using 100% recycled drywall is that the end product costs no more than drywall manufactured from new material. As green buildings become more in demand, builders should welcome a way to replace the large amount of conventional drywall used in a home with a completely recycled product at no additional cost.

The recycling process will start with a means of getting old drywall from renovation projects back to the manufacturer for re-use. I can think of a few problems with this part of the recycling process. First, most demolition projects involve methods that end up with the olod walls being demolished and mixed in with the rest of the building. Typically these days, bulldozers and large machines are used to demolish an old house. The entire pile of debris is then loaded into dump trucks and taken to the landfill. I don’t know how this process can be changed without adding significantly to the demolition costs. In a remodel, any new drywall is usually installed right over the existing walls, so no recycled gypsum is available.

I don’t know how this process can be easily changed with out increasing the costs of the recycled drywall. I believe when it is stated that recycled drywall is no more expensive than conventionally produed, it is only the manufacturing process that is considered. Like recycling of almost anything, the cost of the actual saving of the material and the cost in inconvenience to the consumer is almost always the limiting factor.

Still, at the current time, using recycled sheetrock in a new building project is a proven way to decrease the carbon footprint of new construction while meeting homeowners increasing demands for green building methods, all at no additional cost.

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Will Sig
1 Swubird

Will:

As you probably know, most municipalities now days must prepare and implement a solid waste reduce, reuse, and recycling plan, and part of that plan must address construction and demolition waste. Again, most municipalities require potential C&D contractors applying for a permit to first submit a C&D recycling plan. The objective is to keep C&D waste out of landfills, and return as much of them as possible back into the economic mainstream. While I agree that nothing effective will ever get done unless a few bucks exchange hands, I also believe there are creative ways to approach the drywall recycling problem. As one example, sub-contractors could be allowed in ahead of time to strip the structures of drywall before the actual demolition begins, and sell that material to bona fide reclaimers. Of course, this would increase the cost of drywall at the retail level, but in my opinion, the benefit is worth it. Reduce, reuse and recycle is the current strategy for a sustainable environment, so why exclude drywall?

Great post.

Happy trails.

Swubirds last blog post..SECRET MEMORY

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2 Will

That is interesting information. I really don’t know much about the regulations and such. I agree that a small increase in retail price would be an OK trade off for more recycling of any building material. But it would be a hard see, I am afraid. We in the U.S., at least, are spoiled and expect to pay only for the product itself, not for disposal or recycling costs.

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3 Swubird

Will:

What you say is true. But right now California cities are either recycling, reusing, or reducing over 50% of their municipal waste. That’s well documented by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, and those records are open to the public. That’s a lot of stuff that used to go to a landfill. So, my point is that people are already used to the increased cost. It’s similar to the hike in gas prices. You gotta pay it to live in the modern world.

Swubirds last blog post..SECRET MEMORY

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4 Will

Wow – 50% is great. Is that city projects only, or all projects city or private also? I can see how municipalities would do this as any increased cost is being born by taxpayers. Private contractors would have to deal with private paying clients and that would be a harder sell. If the 50% figure includes non-publicly funded jobs also, that is indeed impressive!

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5 Brian

I’m all for green building. Maybe a tax incentive for the demolition contractors would help to lower costs. That’s if you could find a green government to put the plan in action.

Brians last blog post..Garden Reflections

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6 Swubird

Will:

Yes it includes private businesses, residential households and municipal projects. Typically it works through the waste hauler. Waste haulers must offer recycling services to their customers. Although businesses are not required to recycle by law, the cities strong;y encourage them to do so, and many cites provide strong incentives such as public rewards (Trophies, Certificates, etc.) The State of California imposes fines against any city fails to meet the mandated reduction rate – called the diversion rate. Diversion means how much solid waste is being diverted from landfills back into the economic mainstream. If you live in California you can read all about this program by going to your local library and asking if they have a copy of the Source Reduction and Recycling Element for the city your are interested in. If they don’t stock SRRE’s, then go directly to the city clerk, or the city’s environmental manager. The SRRE is public information and you can purchase a copy for the cost of copying. You are also allowed to bring your own copier should you wish to do so.

I hope this information is helpful.

Happy trails.

Swubirds last blog post..THE RODEO KID

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7 Solar Power

Dry wall is just one of the building materials that can be recycled in a cost effective manor.
Government incentives are a must to achieve success.

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8 Hazel Owens

I’m glad that drywall recycling is starting to be more common. Like you said, the gypsum used in sheetrock can be environmentally detrimental to mine, so any chance to reuse it is appreciated. I don’t know the best way to get demolition companies to be more efficient at saving and recycling the drywall unless they’re a specifically green demo company, though. Thanks for the article.

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