WSU to partner with DTG Recycle to recycle gypsum drywall into new building materials

WSU to partner with DTG Recycle to recycle gypsum drywall into new building materials

WSU researchers developed a process that pulverizes drywall scrap from construction and demolition to turn it into a usable building material.

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October 9, 2020

Washington State University (WSU) has received a commercialization grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust that will go towards developing nonstructural building materials made from recycled gypsum drywall, WSU reports. The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust helps support community-focused organizations in the Pacific Northwest through grants, enrichment programming and other resources. WSU will partner with Mill Creek, Washington-based DTG Recycle on the initiative.

According to WSU, researchers “developed a unique process that pulverizes the drywall scrap and turns it into a useable building material. The waste is mixed with water and carbon-neutral binders and pressed into building blocks using a low-energy compaction process. The blocks can be made on-site using portable machines or off-site using existing machinery at conventional masonry plants and can use up to 90 percent of the drywall waste.”

According to DTG Associate General Counsel John Martin, both demolition and clean drywall scraps can be used during this process; however, contractors supplying this material from demolition projects have to confirm the material is clean from contaminants that could be harmful to human health or the environment.

According to WSU, the blocks are durable, fireproof, weigh half as much as conventional concrete blocks while providing 10 times the insulation value. The blocks can also be formed in different colors and shapes and be used as tiles, panels or pavers. WSU researchers originally developed the building material technology in 2017 to help reduce waste to landfill, create affordable building material and lower housing costs.

With this grant, WSU researchers will work with DTG Recycle to build a full-scale wall assembly that will serve to demonstrate the use of the building material in real-world applications.

"Our development team has been working with WSU on this since August 2018," Martin says. "The public response so far has been phenomenal, and we’re excited to facilitate the growth of this highly sustainable technology."

DTG CEO Tom Vaughn says that because of the company's current gypsum drywall recycling initiatives, it is prepared to process incoming materials for this project.

"DTG Recycle is uniquely positioned to work with WSU on this project in that we currently perform the front-end portion of the process already (i.e., collection, transportation and grinding to produce gypsum powder)," Vaughn says. "We will be scaling up the WSU technology and producing the drywall block internally and then will leverage our existing customer database which includes numerous architects and general contractors to achieve a rapid launch of the new product. For many of our customers, we envision drywall scraps from their larger projects being turned into drywall blocks and then re-incorporated into those same projects."

On a larger scale, Vaughn says this new technology could help diversify the number and type of off-take customers for gypsum recyclers. He notes it is also an example of how C&D recyclers can take a proactive approach to finding end markets for incoming materials. 

"We believe C&D recyclers must be leaders in new end product development. If you rely on third parties to determine your commodity off-take destiny, you are increasing your risk profile. New technologies, such as the drywall waste block that allow you to vertically integrate your services and diversify your revenue stream are key to a secure future," Vaughn says.