Gypsum report shows progress to zero plasterboard waste

A report into plasterboard use shows waste gypsum has been reduced on four key areas for the third year in a row.

The report, released yesterday (February 10) as part of the Ashdown Agreement on Plasterboard Recycling is an arrangement between WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) and the Gypsum Products Development Association (GPDA); comprising of British Gypsum, Knauf Drywall and Lafarge Plasterboard.

The agreement began in 2007 and followed a ban on the landfilling of gypsum and other wastes with high sulphate contents together with biodegradable waste in England and Wales since which was brought in in 2005.

And according to WRAP's latest report on the plasterboard waste, produced as part of the Ashdown Agreement, there has been a significant drop in the amount of gypsum landfilled during the manufacture of new plasterboard.

This is down to just 504 tonnes, in the 12 months to March 2010, against the original target of 10,000 tonnes set back in 2007.

The annual production of plaster in the UK is estimated to be around 700 million Kg, equivalent to more than 60 million bags, with over 200 million m2 of plasterboard produced.

This material is used predominantly in house building, commercial and industrial building, and repairs.

WRAP estimates waste arising from construction and demolition is between 0.5 - 1 million tonnes a year, depending on market conditions.

The results for these four targets for the twelve months to 31 March 2010 are as follows:

Target 1 To engage with all stakeholders to undertake activities which reduce the amount of new plasterboard waste to landfill and increase recovery of all plasterboard waste

· The GPDA manufacturers have worked with other stakeholders, Government, the Environment Agency and WRAP to deliver a Quality Protocol, launched in January 2010, to encourage recycling of gypsum from waste plasterboard - accompanied by recycling specification PAS 109. It is estimated that this new Quality Protocol, which describes the process by which waste plasterboard can be safely recycled into new gypsum products, could help the construction industry divert an estimated 48,000 tonnes of waste plasterboard away from landfill each year.

· GPDA are active members of the Plasterboard Sustainability Partnership which launched the Plasterboard Sustainability Action Plan in 2010; promoting supply chain engagement and identifying key actions to tackle waste.
· The manufacturers' technical advice service provides customers with advice on eliminating site waste beginning at design and specification phase and continuing through installation.

Target 2 To reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill, both monocell and co-disposal, from UK plasterboard manufacturing operations

· The results for the 12 months to 31 March 2010 exceeded expectations by a significant margin as just 504 tonnes of waste gypsum was sent to landfill against the revised target of 5,000 tonnes. The year 2009/10 was obviously a difficult one for the construction industry, nevertheless the reduction in waste gypsum is impressive, particularly when compared with the initial target set in 2007 to reduce this waste stream to 10,000 tonnes per year.

Target 3 To increase the take back and recycling of plasterboard waste, for use in plasterboard manufacture, to 50% of new construction waste production by end 2010

· For the 12 months until 31 March 2010 there has been a significant increase in the percentage of post-construction waste plasterboard recycled into new plasterboard, rising to 26%. Whilst this figure is still short of the target, the positive progress demonstrates the manufacturers' efforts to meet this goal and is indeed an increase on the previous two reports, both of which showed take back and recycling to be around 20%.

· The figure of 26% gives the situation by end of March 2010. Details for the remainder of that year will be reported in 2011. More increases are expected not least because the launch of a Quality Protocol makes recycling easier.

Target 4 To work with all parties in the supply chain towards achieving the ultimate objective of zero plasterboard waste to landfill

· This is a long-term target; nevertheless industry shows encouraging signs of delivering this aim. The amount of waste sent to landfill in 2006/07 was 11,279t, which has fallen to just 504 tonnes per year by March 2010.

· There are encouraging signs that the regulatory position on waste gypsum as a non-hazardous non-inert waste is also increasing recycling.

WRAP's programme manager materials recycling, Mike Falconer Hall, said: "The Ashdown report shows the good progress the gypsum industry is making in tackling waste.

"Given the difficult economic situation and the effect this has had on construction, businesses are focussing on the cost as well as the environmental benefits of waste reduction and recycling.

"The biggest barrier to zero plasterboard waste remains contamination during demolition. Sort this, and zero waste could be a reality."

Luke Walsh


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