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Business & Education >>  Construction >>  Managing Waste >>  Gypsum & Wood

Recycling is a valuable tool for builders to use in addressing waste management issues. It can help to extend our resources while reducing costs to builders and ultimately homeowners. Some states and municipalities have strong C&D recycling programs. Still, recycling is heavily dependent on individual builders because builders are most capable of identifying and understanding the opportunities available in their business. They are also adept at forming the partnerships between designers, recycling centers, government and suppliers that are required to make successful recycling endeavors.

Recycling activities begin with building partnerships and material choices. Other factors that influence the efficiency of recycling include:

  • sorting and storage space
  • contamination
  • transportation
  • regulations (processing, air, water, disposal, storage)
  • market availability

Waste materials must be processed to market specifications. Specifications vary by market type but will typically include: 1. separation from other wastes and 2. removal of contaminants (nails, plastic, shingle, etc.). Some markets will also require processing through grinding and chipping. Contact local markets or recycling centers beforehand to secure a contract for delivery of waste materials and to determine what processing is required for material acceptance.

New construction materials are more readily recycled than demolition or renovation wastes. Demolition and renovation wastes are more difficult to separate, resulting in higher contamination levels. The amount of contamination is a key factor in determining market acceptance. Once it is clear that materials can be separated to maintain quality for a particular market, the transportation costs and regulations concerning storage or processing of those materials must be weighed. The partnerships built with designers, recyclers and others will help to overcome obstacles and lay out the neccessary procedures for a successful recycling operation.

Besides cardboard, wood and gypsum drywall are the two largest contributors to the new construction waste stream. Markets are available for recycling these materials and creative new uses are still being developed.

Markets for Used Gypsum Drywall include:

  • New drywall and cement production
  • Water, sludge and manure treatment
  • As a component in flea powder or athletic field marking products
  • Absorbtion of moisture in animal bedding or anti-slip agent in shop applications
  • Agricultural land applications or residential soil amendment
  • Compost bulking agent

Markets for Wood Waste include:

  • Reclaimed/Remilled lumber for use in other construction and furniture projects
  • Feedstock for engineered lumber, pallet production and boiler fuel
  • Landscape mulch, soil conditioners, animal bedding, playground cover
  • Compost and sewage sludge bulking mediums

The 'Waste Material Exchange' section of this guide offers links to a host of buyers and sellers of materials. Other local markets can be identified by contacting local government environmental or commerce officials, or local Home Building Association.These organizations can help find manufacturers, compost facilities, salvage lumber stores or unique opportunities offered only in your area. If considering on-site processing and recycling, refer to 'Recycling Equipment Links' for information about equipment purchases and incentives. Also be sure to check with governmental agencies concerning noise, air, water and solid waste issues if recycling on-site.

Additional Gypsum and Wood Management Resources:

Drywall Recycling provides an overview of gypsum management on a construction site and existing and potential markets. This factsheet also offers a glimpse at regulations governing the processing of gypsum as well as equipment considerations. California Integrated Waste Managment Board

The Gypsum Association is a non-profit trade association for gypsum board manufacturers. The Association has developed guidelines for the recycling of construction gypsum on-site and recommends this practice due to the scale of most residential construction projects. Two other Association publications are useful to understanding current Gypsum markets, Gypsum's Untold Story: Synthetic Gypsum ( and Gypsum's Environmental Story in North America ( ).

Gypsum Wallboard and Recycling Reuse Options in the State of Vermont - An in-depth report on the characteristics of gypsum wallboard and market opportunities for recycling. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources by Emma Marvin

National Wood Recycling Directory - Click 'Wood Recovery' in left column, then 'National Wood Recycling Directory'. This directory was designed to help individuals, groups, communities, builders, remodelers, and demolition contractors identify receiving sites for recovered wood. It contains a nationwide listing of over 700 wood residue receiving centers. Search the directory or add a listing from this site. American Forest and Paper Association (AF & PA)

The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) is an international trade association representing the interests of manufacturers, recyclers and distributors of pallets, containers and reels. Find a supplier, ask a question, or read through the technical resources regarding pallets.

The Urban Wood Waste Fact Sheet offers background on wood waste characteristics and market opportunities. Market opportunities are directed at the California audience but applicable to many regions. Also provides links to additional publications. California Integrated Waste Management Board

Wood Waste Best Practices - Focus is on demolition and landclearing, but provides a number of useful strategies that could be applied to new construction as well. Contains an especially useful overview on size reduction equipment (grinding, shredding, chipping) and screening equipment.

(Fact Sheet 7 of 10)

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