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Drywall is present in virtually any structure that you might enter. It forms the walls and ceilings of our homes and workplaces, making it practically omnipresent. Any significant renovation or remodel will likely involve adding, removing, or replacing drywall and you might find yourself wondering about the best way to dispose of it and whether or not it can be recycled.
Drywall is known by several names, including plasterboard, wallboard, gypsum board, and Sheetrock, though Sheetrock, much like Kleenex, is a brand name that has become eponymous with the product. It is a construction material used most notably in walls and ceilings, but it also finds use in eaves and arches, as well as other design features.
Prior to the use of drywall, building interiors were made of plaster, which was not only time-consuming but also difficult to do well. Drywall replaced plaster as the material of choice due to the many advantages it offered including:
Gypsum, a component of drywall, is a naturally occurring mineral also known as hydrated calcium sulphate, which is used as a raw material not only for drywall but for several other products as well. It is naturally fire resistant, making it extremely useful to the construction industry, where it can help limit structural damage caused by fire.
Disposing of drywall can be a tricky situation, particularly if it is being removed from older buildings. Up until the early 1970s, asbestos was a component of nearly all drywall, with asbestos fibres added to drywall materials to make them lighter and more fire-resistant. Because of the risks involved in dealing with asbestos, drywall needs to be removed carefully and there are guidelines for its disposal.
If the drywall contains asbestos, you will need to contact an asbestos abatement company to avoid releasing the asbestos fibres into the air, where they could find their way into your lungs causing issues such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Removing this type of drywall can be done in different ways according to the location and type of material, as well as the safety concerns of the workers. Generally, the contractor will seal off the working area with plastic sheeting which is held in place by heavy tape and staples. The work area will be ventilated with the use of specialized equipment. The abatement company will remove the asbestos drywall and dispose of it in a secured, hazardous waste landfill, a municipal solid waste landfill, or another facility.
Assuming you have drywall to dispose of that doesn’t contain asbestos, it can be transported to a local landfill for disposal. If you have a large amount owing to a large renovation, you may wish to consider renting a bin for its disposal. Keep in mind that while asbestos-free drywall is not considered a hazardous material, it should be separated from your normal refuse owing to its gypsum content, which can cause problems if not disposed of properly. For example, if exposed to organic material in a landfill, microorganisms convert the sulfate in gypsum into hydrogen sulfide. This foul-smelling gas could potentially prove lethal.
For this reason, even though you may read or hear that you can add drywall to your compost bin, you should avoid doing so for the safety of yourself, your family, and your surroundings. Your best bet is to leave it to professionals who can safely remove it and see to its disposal.
Another option for drywall is recycling. Which should be done whenever possible. Depending on the type of drywall, gypsum may make up roughly 90% of its weight. If this gypsum can be recovered, it is relatively easy to recycle, and the majority of the material can be reused.
This is the preferred route, keeping drywall from reaching landfills. In addition to checking that your drywall does not contain asbestos, ensure that it has not been painted with lead-based paint, which may release fine particles that, if inhaled, can cause health problems.
Recyclers will remove contaminants, such as screws and nails, as well as the paper backing. The gypsum will then either be turned into pellets or ground into powder. The resulting material may then be sold to manufacturers who can use it to produce other products.
It’s important, however, to check with the local recycling centres, as some will only accept unused drywall. This makes professional recycling and disposal services the preferred route, saving you from hassle and worry.
Do you have drywall that needs recycling or disposal? Minibins has drywall collection services available for all the greater Vancouver area.
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