Building industry's plan to merge waste

Thursday, 19 April, 2007

New opportunities are emerging for the building industry to sustainably manage the problem of waste plasterboard disposal. Guided by the quantitative framework of a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Winstone Wallboards is committed to an active leadership role in changing the course of New Zealand's built environment.

Winstone Wallboards successfully applied LCA to the production and distribution of their GIB plasterboard and are now applying the knowledge to waste plasterboard disposal. "The LCA approach is holistic, transparent and repeatable," says Kevin Golding, manager future for Winstone Wallboards.

The company sees a direct link between improving sustainable performance and business performance. They regard LCA as a practical tool for targeting waste reduction.

Every year, 3.4 million tonnes of waste go to New Zealand's 90 landfills. An estimated 25,000-30,000 tonnes of waste annually is plasterboard.

Of the various solutions that Winstone Wallboards is considering, the most viable appears to be re-use of plasterboard in composting.

To advance its product stewardship program, Winstone Wallboards is liaising with member companies of Compost New Zealand. Massey University's Zero Waste Academy, as a member of the Compost New Zealand steering group, has undertaken to draft a costed proposal which would see Winstone Wallboards formally work with Compost New Zealand on developing a nationwide recycling framework where composting is the preferred recycling option.

This proposal has been circulated, discussed and a positive dialogue is continuing.

According to Jonathon Hannon, Zero Waste Academy coordinator, New Zealand could follow the international trend to close the loop via production recycling in factories and composting. Gypsum, the principal mineral in plasterboard, is widely recycled for soil conditioning and for compost.

"The process for re-using waste plasterboard is at a very early stage," says Hannon. "The aim is to develop a chain of custody for plasterboard including encouragement for the builder to comply."

North Shore City Council has initiated a REBRI (Resource Efficiency in the Building and Related Industries) program in the city where it will work with key stakeholders on specific construction projects to reduce construction waste going to landfill and cleanfill and to test the newly developed REBRI guidelines. Winstone Wallboards has been involved with this program both to help construction projects reduce waste plasterboard and divert it from landfill.

Kevin Crutchley, North Shore City Council Senior Advisor - Resource Efficiency, says: "As well as investigating solutions for plasterboard off-cut waste, the program will encourage good design and installation methods to minimise the waste generated."

EBERT Construction has signed up to a North Shore City REBRI project for a construction site of 132 apartments. Their waste plasterboard will be sent to Envirofert.

Envirofert has been recycling waste plasterboard sourced from the Winstone Wallboards Auckland factory into a range of new soil conditioning products for the commercial growing and domestic home gardener markets.

Winstone Wallboards aims to develop an efficient coordinated national solution to composting of waste plasterboard. The science issues for incorporating waste plasterboard into compost mixes appear to be solvable. Winstone Wallboards plans ongoing liaison with Compost New Zealand members to roll out a working model procedure for the recycling. If further research is needed, a formally applied research project may be established.

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