14
Oct

On your next remodeling project, don't dump that drywall – Staunton News Leader

Call it what you will — drywall, gypsum board, wallboard, plasterboard, gyp board, rock — we all (do-it-your-selfers, remodelers and builders, and their clients) waste a lot of it.

For those who’ve not had a bathroom remodeled of late: The construction material is used to create interior walls of homes and offices. Plasterboard panels are made of calcium sulfate dehydrate. Commonly known as gypsum. Strong paper backing reinforces the chalky material. It’s not light stuff.

Tens of billions of square feet of the paneling material are made annually in the USA. For every square foot of the stuff put up, one pound of waste is created. Cutouts, busted boards and end cuts that can’t be used on site, they all get trashed. One study of a county landfill estimates that wallboard makes up 15 percent of dump waste. 

Can you image the numbers in “hurricaned” zones? 

Most every professional in the building trade acknowledges the shame of drywall deposits in the landfill. Many dairymen do too, because they’d like to spread the drywall discards on their fields. 

You could read all about it in the real publication, Hoards Dairyman, which is not affiliated with Heaps Poultrywomen or Caches Swineherds. (Note: Heaps and Caches are fictitious ag newsletter titles created for comic effect.) 

Gypsum is an old-time farmer’s fertilizer. These days it is costly to mine, and therefore not commonly used for widespread ag purposes. 

Cattle folk put gypsum on fields. Their herds’ hooves work shards into the earth. It loosens and amends soil where heavy machinery has compacted dirt, making for shallow plant roots and ponding after rain. Soil that can breathe and allow for water to flow makes life better for one of the farm’s best friends — earthworms. They break down organic matter to release nutrients. 

(Try perusing Stashs Wormvolks for details. And see previous “Note” before beginning search.)

Pulverized or broken bits of leftover wall board, when applied to fields, create multiple benefits: reduced commercial fertilizer use, increased yield, and decreased costs — significantly — for farmers. Spreading drywall on ag land near streams improves water quality by reducing agricultural chemical and animal waste runoff. 

How can ag engineers get the good stuff we’ve been pitching away?

We have a metal pile at the landfill for recycling. Why not a drywall pile? And, for their effort, cut builders break$ on their dumping fees for the “donated” gypsum? 

Along a similar line of thinking…. There’s a Goodwill donation container at the S.A.W. landfill. Why not a Habitat for Humanity container for all kinds to stuff builders and remodelers burn or dump? 

Jason Huffman, a jack-of-all-construction tradesman who helped finish our bathroom, takes pride in wasting next to nothing on a job. But that’s not the norm in construction and remodeling, by amateurs and pros. 

“Homebuilders who built my house had to come two different times to get mounds of leftover material off the ground,” he lamented. “There was so much that they had to use big excavating equipment to get it loaded into trucks.”

My Green, Scots-Irish-Swiss-German genes shudder at the thought of such waste — multiplied by the millions. 

Then, I learned Thursday, while making a toilet donation, that the new(ish) management of the Habitat for Humanity store, ReStore, on Richmond Avenue, makes it easier for tightwads to get a tax break for doing the right thing. 

Bill McKenna, the store manager, said the staff now make pickups at construction or remodeling sites. And, they accept even broken fixtures and appliances in order to salvage working parts. Homeowners can repair things rather than toss them. 

There’s a new business model working at ReStore. Look for a report on it after Lance Barton, the executive director, buys me a cup of coffee. Or, if he twists my wallet, vice versa. 

Email Augusta County columnist Bruce Dorries at bdorries@marybaldwin.edu

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