They insulate, protect against fire, control moisture and even block out sound. The properties of plasterboard are well known in the trade, but knowing what to do with it when it becomes waste hasn’t always been clear.
More than 300,000 tonnes of waste plasterboard is generated in the UK each year from new construction activity, according to WRAP – an organisation that helps businesses to reduce waste and develop sustainable ways of working. At least another 500,000 tonnes of waste comes from demolition and refurbishment projects.
It was once fine to take waste plasterboard to landfill as it was deemed ‘inert’ – essentially waste that doesn’t dissolve, burn or chemically react to anything else, and therefore offers no threat or harm to the environment or human health.
But in July 2005, that thinking changed.
The EU Landfill Directive reclassified plasterboard as non-inert waste because it contained small amounts of paper. When gypsum is mixed with biodegradable waste in the moist, airless atmosphere of a typical landfill site, a chemical reaction takes place, which releases the toxic gas hydrogen sulphide.
In short, that means plasterboard – or any other material that contains gypsum – can’t be taken to landfill, to be left to decompose with biodegradable household waste.
If you tried to take plasterboard to a landfill today, you’d have to put it in a special Monocell. There’s no other option available to you – unless you want to incur a hefty fine and risk damaging your company’s reputation.
The great thing about plasterboard is that it can be easily recycled into new plasterboard, without the addition of any other material. It’s what’s known as closed-loop recycling. As long as the gypsum isn’t contaminated, you can help create new, high quality plasterboard for another construction project somewhere else in the UK.
In our next blog post we’ll take a look at the other uses of discarded plasterboard, because it’s more versatile than you’d think. For more information on plasterboard recycling visit the British Gypsum website.