A year after signing up to a ground-breaking voluntary recycling initiative with WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) and sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Gypsum Products Development Association (GPDA) is already ahead of schedule in hitting key targets.
Aware of the growing need to address the amount of plasterboard waste going to landfill and the consequent perceived environmental impact, the organisation initiated a meeting with Defra and WRAP representatives at Ashdown House towards the end of 2006. The dialogue, formalised as the “Ashdown Agreement”, resulted in the Association and Defra shaking hands on two major measurable targets.
The first measurable goal was to reduce the amount of waste generated by plasterboard manufacture being sent to landfill from 63,600 tonnes in 2000 to 10,000 tonnes/year by 2010. The first Ashdown Agreement annual report, released in August this year, confirms that the sector has made excellent progress.
As a result of plant investment and improved practice, in the twelve months to March 2008, just over 6,000 tonnes - representing about 0.2% of production - of plasterboard waste from manufacturing went to landfill, considerably better than the target limit of 10,000 tonnes, and a full two years early.
Figure 1 Historical production waste to landfill
GPDA General Secretary Crispin Dunn-Meynell says, “This is an important and welcome achievement. We’ve already hit the 2010 target but continued improvement remains a challenge. The next year will see a flattening of the trend for progress in waste minimisation as we tackle small waste streams and more difficult areas, but the sector will continue to work to reduce waste from original manufacture still further. We have agreed with WRAP that the target for 2010 should be reduced to 7,500 tonnes ”
The next Ashdown target was to increase recycling from new construction plasterboard waste to 50% by 2010. In 2006, new construction used around 2.5 million tonnes of plasterboard and generated an estimated 300,000 tonnes of waste. The report shows that significant progress has been made – in the first year of the initiative almost 54,000 tonnes of plasterboard waste from new build was recycled.
Crispin Dunn-Meynell again - “While the quantity of plasterboard used in construction has increased, awareness of the need to reduce waste is much improved. The increase in landfill tax rates has led to a rapid rise in non-manufacturers recycling plasterboard for alternative uses – a further increase in recycling which is not reflected in the figure of 54,000 tonnes.”
To continue to drive towards the 50% recycling target, all GPDA members have set up “take-back” schemes, whereby contractors can return plasterboard waste to their manufacturer rather than sending it to landfill. Contractors can also access online services to identify the most appropriate waste removal solution for each project. Bags, skips or wait-and-load skips are delivered to site – the contractor calls the manufacturer when collection is required and the waste is collected and fed back into the manufacturing process.
While not subject to a defined target, the industry is also aware of the imperative to work towards reducing waste. Complementing the Ashdown agreement, the Contractors and Developers have this month signed a voluntary agreement to reduce waste from construction to 15%. And manufacturers are collaborating with WRAP to develop products and processes to cut the amount of waste from new construction, with an ultimate goal of “zero to landfill.” With this challenging target in mind Association members have looked further than just the recycling of plasterboard product to come up with solutions, and have extended innovation to designing waste out of the building process itself.
One GPDA member, for example, has developed and introduced a waste-cutting door jamb, which, when used on a new residential apartment development at Leamouth, in London, reduced plasterboard waste by 27%. Contractors are also employing a chipping process, using equipment supplied by the manufacturers, to maximise the weight of plasterboard waste in each disposal bin, reducing the number of bins on site and, subsequently, the number of truck journeys needed to return waste material to the manufacturer for recycling.
Despite the success story so far, Crispin Dunn-Meynell acknowledges that challenges lie ahead. He says, “The credit crunch in the US is having an increasing impact in the UK. This will inevitably put our customers under pressure to protect profits by reducing costs wherever possible. Their main priority will be eliminating waste, but where they have to dispose of waste they will do so at the lowest cost. The net effect of these factors against Ashdown targets is difficult to forecast and will need to be monitored over the next year.
However, industrial performance during 2008 confirms the suitability of existing arrangements – GPDA members remain confident that they can deliver against the 2010