Gypsum wallboard — the ubiquitous material found in homes, offices and other buildings — is finding new life when recycled as a soil additive, especially for farm crops. Rather than seeing wallboard being dumped in landfills, companies such as Quality Soil Amendments (QSA) in California and Agri Marketing, Inc., in Pennsylvania have built successful businesses recycling drywall, then reselling the pulverized gypsum.
“Doing what we’re doing, whether it’s me doing it or somebody else, is the right thing to do and I believe it is sustainable now and in the future,” said Terry L. Weaver, president and general manager of Agri Marketing based in Reinholds, Pa.
Both Agri Marketing, with plants in Reinholds and Turbotville, Pa., and Quality Soil Amendments based in Bakersfield, Calif., take in new construction scrap drywall from building projects and recycle the material. Each company annually ships about 20,000 tons of gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate).
There’s no shortage of new drywall, with the U.S. producing approximately 15 tons of the material a year, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board. California, alone, uses an estimated 1.8 million tons, it said.
“Approximately 12 percent of new construction drywall is wasted during installation,” the board said. “Therefore, over 200,000 tons of new drywall scrap may be generated in California per year. The amount fluctuates with the construction industry, and with natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.” Justin Karr, who founded QSA, pointed to statistics showing that for new construction, one pound of scrap was generated per square foot of material used. The vast majority of drywall waste — 64 percent — is from new construction, according to studies.