Northeast Targets Gypsum Recycling

The Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association has published a research paper on steps to increase gypsum wallboard recycling.

October 11, 2010
CDR Staff
Gypsum Drywall Commodities

The Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association (NEWMOA), with support from a $25,000 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant it received in 2008, has published a white paper to increase the amount of gypsum wallboard scrap that is recycled in the Northeast.

The report, Policy Options White Paper Promoting Greater Recycling of Gypsum Wallboard from Construction and Demolition (C&D) Projects in the Northeast, was prepared by NEWMOA and is the culmination of input from eight northeast states, the NEWMOA and EPA throughout the past two years.
The study supports the discussion among the states on key strategies that could be implemented within a state or across the region to advance gypsum wallboard recycling.
NEWMOA’s board of directors is in the process of identifying next steps for the association to pursue.
NEWMOA estimates that 1.2 million tons of gypsum wallboard scrap were generated in the Northeast in 2006, of which about 720,000 tons were new gypsum wallboard scrap from construction projects, and 480,000 tons were old wallboard removed from demolition and renovation projects.
The NEWMOA white paper identified the following strategies that states could adopt to significantly improve gypsum recycling in the foreseeable future:
  • Ban the disposal of gypsum wallboard in landfills;
  • Require recycling of gypsum wallboard scrap produced by state-financed projects;
  • Require waste management planning by construction industry contractors so that they are better prepared to properly manage and recycle construction and demolition debris, including wallboard;
  • Develop common terminology and reporting requirements among state environmental agencies to help wallboard and other C&D waste processors and recyclers conduct business more easily in neighboring states and so that environmental agencies and others can obtain an accurate understanding of the quantities and rates of gypsum recycling in the region; and
  • Develop and implement extended producer responsibility approaches to engage the manufacturers and other stakeholders in promoting increased recycling of gypsum wallboard.  

Several Northeast states have already adopted some of the above strategies, for example:

  • The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has proposed a disposal ban on clean gypsum wallboard and is in the process of preparing responses to the comments received during public hearings in June 2010.
  • State contracting programs in Massachusetts and Maine require C&D materials recycling in state construction projects and include new construction wallboard scrap specifically. The Massachusetts Department of Capital Asset Management recently revised its specifications for construction waste management and disposal to include a requirement to divert all clean gypsum wallboard scrap generated on projects greater than 20,000 square feet from disposal to recycling or re-use outlets. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is working on a memorandum of agreement with Maine’s Bureau of General Services that would result in recycling of waste wallboard from construction projects at state buildings.
  • Vermont and Maine have laws that require large development projects to obtain a comprehensive permit from their respective states. In Vermont, projects greater than 10,000 square feet must undergo a state permit process known as Act 250. In Maine, projects that will affect more than 3 acres must be approved by the state. In both states, part of this process includes development of a waste management plan that strives to minimize C&D debris disposal including gypsum wallboard.
  • The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection established a gypsum wallboard recycling stakeholders group to begin to identify challenges and opportunities to increase recycling of wallboard in the state.