Gypsum Wallboard: A Study Examining Wallboard Waste Management Options for Southern Ontario
van de Merwe, Susan
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In 2005, the Recycling Council of Ontario published a report that identified the construction industry as one sector that did not manage its waste in an environmentally appropriate manner. In this report, Let’s Climb Another Molehill, 15 case studies were executed to understand why this industry was neither handling nor disposing its waste properly in Southern Ontario. A set of generic recommendations was generated to help improve the management of this industry’s waste. Unfortunately the scope of the report was too broad to support conclusions about the management of specific types of problematic construction waste. The aim of this thesis is to narrow what was done in Let’s Climb Another Molehill to focus only on gypsum wallboard. The purpose of this research is to determine what options are the most desirable and feasible to deal sustainably with gypsum wallboard waste in Southern Ontario, both now and in the future. All recommendations offered are case specific. A number of methods have been utilized to obtain the information needed to formulate appropriate recommendations to deal with wallboard. Information learned through the literature, witnessed through the observation sessions, and acquired through the interviews led to two unique option categories: 1) alternative materials and 2) change in practices. To evaluate these options, a set of criteria was created based on the concepts of sustainability and integrated waste management (IWM). This sustainable IWM criteria set allowed for consistent evaluation of the options. To improve the recommendations, the sustainable IWM criteria were refined to better deal with each of the two categories of options. When the sustainable IWM criteria for evaluating alternative materials were applied, gypsum wallboard was found still to be the best interior wall material to use today. However, applying the sustainable IWM criteria for evaluating change in practices showed that the problem with using this product lies with its management and, therefore, the remaining recommendations focus on improving the creation, use and disposal of wallboard. Many of these recommendations can easily be adopted to help eliminate inappropriate wallboard management practices. This research was able to identify areas where problems arose and to offer feasible options to improve environmentally inappropriate behaviors associated with wallboard management. Although numerous recommendations are offered, the three fundamental recommendations that will lead to the biggest change include: 1) greater number of educational programs devoted to the construction industry; 2) stricter regulations and better enforcement; and 3) a dramatic increase in landfill tipping fees. If these three recommendations were implemented, it is believed that they will play a positive role in managing gypsum wallboard waste in a more sustainable manner.