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Each year, more and more gypsum manufacturers are discovering the benefits of gypsum recycling. Not only is gypsum fully recyclable, but it is also sustainable throughout its entire life cycle. Gypsum recycling results in emission reductions, processing waste decreases, and lowered transportation-related costs. Considering today’s increasing environmental concerns and regulations, it goes without saying that there is immense value in the opportunities provided through processing recycled gypsum.

Why Recycle Gypsum?
Gypsum board is the most prevalent source of gypsum recycling. Also known as drywall, sheetrock, or plasterboard, gypsum board is used as ceiling or wall panels in building.

Even though the option to recycle gypsum board is widely available, most boards are disposed of in landfills. This is problematic because the anaerobic decomposition of gypsum can produce harmful gasses such as hydrogen sulfide. Additionally, the gypsum found in drywall is capable of breaking down clay liners that waste management companies use to prevent toxins from seeping into water systems. Special measures are required at construction and demolition debris landfills in order to prevent these threats to public health, safety, and the environment.

Gypsum recycling is an excellent solution to circumvent disposal issues. By recycling gypsum, waste is reduced at its source, thus turning an environmental problem into a business opportunity. In addition, using recycled gypsum versus mined gypsum promotes sustainable manufacturing practices. As previously mentioned, gypsum recycling provides manufacturers with emission reductions. Less energy is also spent on processing when using recycled gypsum versus raw gypsum. In addition, because less raw, mined gypsum is required, transportation energy emissions are also reduced.

Sources of Gypsum Waste
Because gypsum board is such a large industry, most gypsum waste originates from gypsum board-related products and manufacturing. Plaster and gypsum blocks also contribute to gypsum waste, but to a much lesser degree. According to the EPA, sources of gypsum board waste (and their associated total percentage) include:

Gypsum Building Construction Waste (64%): The greatest amount of gypsum recycling comes from uninstalled gypsum board scraps from building construction sites. This is considered a clean waste, free of contamination.
Gypsum Post-Consumer Waste: Demolition (14%) and Renovation (10%): Gypsum post-consumer waste occurs when installed ceiling and wall boards are removed during a building’s demolition or renovation. While not as prevalent as processing recycled gypsum from new construction waste, there are a number of U.S. recyclers who accept post-consumer gypsum board waste. The lack of recycling in this category is often due to contamination issues. Nails, wall coverings, and so forth must all be separated from the gypsum. Additionally, lead and asbestos contamination concerns associated with older buildings are also a recycling issue.
Gypsum Manufacturing Waste (12%): Gypsum manufacturing waste is a result of rejected material created during the manufacture of gypsum products. Most gypsum manufacturing plants recycle this waste stream as part of their waste avoidance protocol.

Gypsum Recycling
Gypsum is an exceptional material in that it delivers closed loop recycling, meaning its waste can be used continuously to make the same product.

Gypsum board recycling begins when construction site waste is brought to a recycling center for processing. The recycling center separates the paper from the gypsum and breaks down the gypsum into a fine powder. The gypsum powder is then ready to be used in recycled gypsum products. Additionally, the screened paper is sorted and processed based on its intended use.

Gypsum Products
After processing recycled gypsum, there are a number of different products for which recycled gypsum material is valued.

Agricultural Products: Recycled gypsum is an excellent fertilizer and soil amendment. Not only does gypsum loosen compacted soils, but it also increases water infiltration and adds nutrients such as calcium and sulfur back into the soil, making it essential when promoting sustainability in irrigated soils.
New Drywall: Many gypsum manufacturers utilize gypsum recycling as a material source for new boards. Because of gypsum’s sustainable qualities, new products containing recycled gypsum are of the same quality as gypsum boards produced using only raw materials.
Cement: Gypsum is used as an ingredient in cement manufacturing, providing benefits such as reduced setting time.
Paper Products: Recycled paper waste from gypsum boards can be used in agriculture, animal bedding, and even ceiling tiles.
Composting: Gypsum board is used as an additive to compost. It is added after the compost is created in order to supply plants with the important nutrients found in gypsum.

Over the years, CLIRIK has garnered a reputation for bringing value to materials previously considered as wastes. By providing a balance between market and environmental needs, CLIRIKhas developed usable solutions from a wide array of wastes, including those found in the gypsum industry. CLIRIK is highly experienced in the processing and handling of gypsum, from pelletizing to drying. For more information on Clirik’s experience with usable gypsum waste solutions, contact us today.