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Recycling of Waste Plasterboard from Commercial Refurbishment Projects

Trials funded by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) assessing the recycling of waste plasterboard from commercial refurbishment projects have shown that it is economically viable, according to a report published today.

Key findings of the report indicate that:

  • recovering and recycling plasterboard waste from commercial refurbishment sites is economically viable;
  • it can be achieved by adapting existing site practices;
  • it ensures low (or even zero) contamination in the waste collected for recycling; and
  • transferring small quantities of plasterboard to a waste transfer station, where it is bulked and then delivered to a recycler can be cost-effective for the contractor.

The WRAP funded trials, led by waste management consultants Oakdene Hollins, involved collecting waste plasterboard from city centre refurbishment projects at 13 sites across London. The aim was to help contractors overcome recycling barriers which include space constraints for skips, short project time frames, and wide variability in the volume, quality and type of plasterboard waste being generated requiring a flexible collection system.

The trial featured alternative waste management solutions to investigate the best ways to recover plasterboard waste for recycling. These included the ‘mosquito fleet’ method, which collects small loads of waste plasterboard from sites and delivers it to a waste transfer station, using a plasterboard only skip on site, and collecting waste plasterboard for delivery direct to the recycler.

The results of the trials were extremely positive and showed that the majority of waste plasterboard generated during the strip-out and re-fit stages – such as wall partitions and ceilings – could be recovered for recycling. This could be achieved by making only small changes to existing practice. Rather than the contractors putting waste plasterboard with all other waste for disposal, they simply needed to stack it in a separate pile for collection.

The trials involved working closely with a local waste transfer station to ensure the small loads of plasterboard could be received and bulked-up, before being delivered to the recycler. Ongoing feedback was received during the trial, enabling the process to be refined. The report identified that only twenty tonnes per week needed to be bulked by the waste transfer station for the costs of recycling to be comparable to mixed landfill disposal.

The refurbishment company taking part in the trials was Overbury, part of the Morgan Sindall Group. Riccardo Rizzi, Environmental Manager for Overbury, comments: “We recognise that plasterboard waste is an issue that needs to be addressed and one that is going to grow in importance over the coming years. Being part of this trial has enabled us to get ahead of the game and discover that it is technically and commercially viable to recycle the plasterboard from our sites in London. We can now move forward to look at how we can implement this practice across all our sites.”

Dave Marsh, Construction Project Officer at WRAP, adds: “Plasterboard waste has generally been considered a low value material, but with waste disposal costs steadily rising, WRAP is developing plasterboard recycling as an alternative to landfill disposal. Until now, it was believed that collection issues prevented refurbishment companies from becoming actively involved in recycling. It’s heartening to see that these trials have demonstrated the clear viability for contractors to recycle plasterboard waste from refurbishment sites of all sizes.”

Contractors and waste management companies can use the report, entitled ‘Recycling plasterboard waste from refurbishment sites’’, to access recommendations and guidance on recovering plasterboard waste during commercial refurbishments.

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