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Drywall Recycling Facility Now Open in Tennessee

Rockwood Sustainable Solutions, a construction waste recycler, announces the opening of Tennessee’s first drywall recycling facility. The innovative Lebanon facility now accepts scrap drywall from drywall installers, contractors, and drywall manufacturers, as well as broken drywall boards from distributors, thus keeping a prolific waste stream out of the landfill. In addition to extending the landfill’s life, removing drywall can reduce landfill odors, because when the gypsum gets wet it can create hydrogen sulfide, producing a rotten egg smell. Additionally, Rockwood has partnered with another Lebanon company, Arrowhead Ag, for the beneficial reuse of the product. Arrowhead makes soil amendments for the agriculture industry, including soil conditioners for farmers, growers, and landscape contractors.

“From the start we’ve been focused on recycling construction materials,” says Rockwood Founder Lincoln Young. “In many ways this is a natural next step in that progression. Customers have been asking us to take drywall for a while, and now we’re able to recycle it through Arrowhead Ag to complete the circle.”

How big is the problem?

According to the Gypsum Association there are 25 billion square feet of gypsum board produced annually. This is then installed in commercial and residential facilities such as single-family and multi-family residences, offices, schools, stores, and more. A general rule of thumb is to purchase 10-12 percent more than needed to accommodate off-cuts, trimmings, and waste. That adds up to a lot of scrap drywall especially when you add in the broken pieces from the drywall distributor and scrap from the manufacturing plant.

The Recycling Process

To start the recycling process, drywall is collected in roll-off containers by Rockwood or brought in by other haulers. When it arrives in the Lebanon plant, workers sort the materials and remove any contaminants. The drywall is then processed for initial size reduction. This size-reduction eliminates the bulky aspect of the material and makes it easier to handle and transport. It is then shipped to Arrowhead Ag for further processing to their specs and requirements.

Beneficial Reuse 

Arrowhead Ag will further process the drywall, pulverizing it finer then screening out the paper. The ground gypsum will be utilized as soil amendments and fertilizer for the agricultural industry, while the paper will be used to make animal bedding. Creating beneficial uses for the product is important to Young, because it creates a valuable end of life option for waste drywall. It is also important to Arrowhead which now has a steady supply of feedstock.

“When our green industry customers want product they want it now, so having a steady supply of good, clean material is huge for us,” says Arrowhead Ag president Doug Giles. “We can grind the drywall to the size we need for particular uses – whether as a bulking agent, as a soil conditioner for the ag industry, or whatever farmers, growers, or landscape contractors need. We can also blend the material with compost or other feedstocks that they may desire.”

Rockwood began accepting drywall at its Lebanon facility on September 1, but the project began roughly 2 years beforehand. Young had been investigating the possibility for several years, determining what equipment was required, what volumes were feasible, and what sort of beneficial end use products were able to be developed.  

Young started recycling drywall for his LEED customers. “In order to get our customers into a higher percentage of recycling for LEED, we had to figure out a sustainable solution for drywall,” said Young, “we are excited about this opportunity because it not only helps our customers but also our other partners in the area through developing infrastructure in the region.” Young hopes to see the business grow and continue to push towards sustainable material management throughout Tennessee. 

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