There’s a good chance that the next sheet of drywall you use had a previous life — as a sheet of drywall.
The company largely responsible for this reincarnation is New West Gypsum Recycling Inc. Fifteen years ago, the Langley, British Columbia-based company invented and patented a process to allow the gypsum core that makes up drywall to be remanufactured into new sheets of drywall.
Now it has developed a process to recycle the paper on scrap drywall into new paper covering. This brings the waste-stream full circle, so that one hundred per cent of cast-off wallboard is re-used as new wallboard.
Once the paper is mechanically separated from the gypsum core, it’s placed in a small pulper and turned into “noodle” pulp using essentially the same process as a pulp and paper mill. The pulp is then sold to Crown Packaging Ltd. in Burnaby, B.C., which manufactures it into new drywall paper covering, supplied in turn to wallboard manufacturers.
John Marshall, director of sales and marketing for Crown’s paper mill says, “New West has spent a considerable amount of money and effort to produce a fibre clean enough to use in our paper-making process. The advantage for Crown is a consistent local source of good quality fibre.”
One of the wallboard manufacturers that uses the recycled paper, BPB Westroc of New Westminster, B.C., salutes the process. Says plant manager Bill Stone, “You can make good quality board from recycled gypsum — we’ve proved it.” New board typically has up to 25 per cent recycled gypsum content.
Crown required New West to lower the paper’s ash content for enhanced quality. “New West worked very hard on this process and hit on the right formula,” Stone says. The company has been able to meet very specific requirements.
New West has recycled over one million tonnes of wallboard since its inception in 1986. Last year, it recycled over 133,000 tonnes — enough to fill a football field 18 storeys high. The company handles about 90 per cent of the scrap drywall produced in Greater Vancouver, mostly from new construction sites.
Tony McCamley, president of New West says that the increased value of waste products, coupled with education, has encouraged builders and homeowners to “do the right thing” by bringing waste to an appropriate transfer station or recycling plant.
Gene Homel is the principal of Homel Communications, based in Langley, British Columbia.