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Drywall - the Recycling Option

January 22, 2013

It can be tough to divert construction and demolition materials for recycling, especially in small towns and rural areas. Chittenden Solid Waste District is paving the way for Vermont communities with its new Drywall Recycling Program.

In summer 2012, Vermont's Chittenden Solid Waste District launched a long-awaited recycling program for clean, new gypsum drywall. "We'd been talking about it for years," reports Nancy Plunkett, CSWD's Waste Reduction Manger, "but the transportation and tip fees for the nearest markets exceeded landfill disposal costs. There would be no incentive for most contractors to keep the material separate."

When CSWD managers were writing the District's Five Year Work Plan in 2008, they saw increased demand for C&D recycling programs, largely driven by LEED building projects, higher landfill tip fees, and more favorable drywall recycling markets. Consequently, they included drywall as a target material to include in an expanded source-separated C&D recycling program at CSWD's Williston Drop-Off Center (DOC). Planning for a 3-bay storage facility to house drywall and other materials began in 2009 as part of the 5-year plan.

In 2010, Plunkett applied for and received an energy grant from the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission as part of the federal stimulus program. The grant contributed $77,500 toward the total $221,000 capital cost of purchasing a baler and building the new 3-bay structure.

After the inevitable permitting delays and construction material shortages exacerbated by tropical storm Irene recovery efforts, the District completed facility construction in June 2012 and began accepting clean, new drywall scrap in July.

The facility Operator inspects every incoming load. For loads up to two cubic yards, the Operator charges a fee of $18/cubic yard, and prorates smaller quantities. Customers with larger loads weigh in at the adjacent transfer station and pay $70/ton. Both fees are calculated to enable the District to run the program as a break-even proposition, excluding capital costs, and compare favorably to tip fees for C&D landfill disposal, which are currently $105-$121/ton.

In October, CSWD shipped its first 20-ton trailer load of drywall to USA Gypsum in Reinholds, PA, which processes the material into soil amendments. The District pays USA Gypsum a $15/ton tip fee plus $46.80/ton transportation (including a prorated fuel surcharge fee) for total per ton cost of $61.80. Drop-Off Center costs bring the total costs for the program to about $70.00/ton.

The Williston DOC Operator reports that the program is going smoothly. "Given our estimate that 3,000 tons of this material was being sent to landfills annually from Chittenden County before we started this program," says Nancy Plunkett, "we're thrilled to see that it's off to a strong start."

For more information about CSWD's drywall recycling program, contact Nancy Plunkett, CSWD Waste Reduction Manager.

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