Plasterboard disposal and recycling

The material used to make many interior walls and ceilings in the UK can often go forgotten but plasterboard is one of the most widespread construction materials in our homes. Not only does it help provide fire protection and insulation, but it can help to control condensation in your walls.

But for homeowners looking to remodel, builders stripping buildings, and deconstruction teams: how do you dispose of plasterboard?

Plasterboard disposal

Who invented plasterboard?

The first plant to manufacture plasterboard in the UK opened in 1888. Sackett Board, the first model of plasterboard, was invented by Augustine Sackett and Fred Kane in 1894 where it was later developed into Gypsum board over thirty years later.

This was adopted by a US corporation that later introduced Sheetrock. The patent for plasterboard was traded over through the decades and given many different names, adapted each time for efficiency and provide a quicker alternative to lath and plaster.

What is plasterboard made of and how is it made?

Plasterboard is recognisable as a panel used in wall construction, also known as ‘Drywall’. This panel is made when a layer of gypsum (calcium sulphate dihydrate) is pressed into a board and faced with a paper covering.

Gypsum can be both natural and synthetic. Naturally, it is derived from rock mined in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, and Sussex. Synthetically, it is a by-product of industrial processes – most commonly, flue-gas desulphurisation of power station emissions.

Plasterboard disposal

Following legislation passed by the Environmental Agency in 2009, plasterboard cannot be land-filled and must be separated for recycling and recovery. This applies to both individuals and businesses.

Check with your local household waste recycling centre to see if they offer plasterboard disposal and recycling. For businesses, incorrect disposal could result in hefty fines. You must find a local recycling centre or pass it on to a licensed waste carrier.

Problems with plasterboard waste

While plasterboard may be non-hazardous alone, if it becomes wet or mixed with other waste, it can begin to putrefy. This means it is classified as specialist waste.

The putrefaction process releases hydrogen sulphide which can cause respiratory complications. At best, it can produce an irritating rotten egg smell. At worst, it can cause nausea, headaches, sleep loss, tearing of the eyes, and airway problems for asthmatics.

Alternatives to plasterboard

Many in the UK are now turning to plasterboard alternatives. Not only can these bring life to a dull room but they can be easier and safer to dispose of and recycle.

You can try wooden planks which are entirely recyclable and biodegradable, as well as offering a rustic touch to any room. Exposed concrete or brick is a rapidly growing trend and can be decorated easily with shelves, paint, and living garden walls.

Alternatively, you can seek out 100% recyclable plasterboard. It is now available with a BES6001 ‘Very Good’ Responsible Sourcing certificate from some suppliers.

Facts about plasterboard

• There are many different types of plasterboard, including standard, fireproof or fire-rated, acoustic, moisture-resistant, and impact-resistant.
• The major drywall manufacturers in the UK are British Gypsum, Knauf, and Siniat.
• You will find that most standard plasterboards will have a grey side and a brown side. This is to help construction know which way to place it: the grey side should face out because it is designed for plastering.

Where can you take plasterboard to recycle/dispose of it for free?

You can take your plasterboard to your local household recycling and waste centre to enquire about recycling and collection of plasterboards. Most centres will take your plasterboard for free though some businesses may be required to pay a small fee.

What waste type shall we learn about next?

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