Gypsum and plasterboard wastes
- We want to encourage businesses producing or dealing with gypsum waste, such as plasterboard, to recycle more of it.
- From 1 April 2009, gypsum and plasterboard cannot be sent to landfill mixed with biodegradable waste.
How to deal with waste gypsum or plasterboard
If you create waste gypsum or plasterboard as a result of your activities:
- Separate gypsum-based material and plasterboard from other wastes on site so it can be either be recycled, reused or disposed of properly at landfill
- Separately package or identify plasterboard in a load of mixed waste so that it can easily be identified for separation at a waste transfer station
- Do not deliberately mix gypsum or plasterboard waste with other waste for landfill
- Speak to your waste management contractor about options for recycling plasterboard. They may be able to provide separate skips or sort it for you
- If you want to send your waste plasterboard directly for recycling you can find your nearest recycler on the WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) website. Recyclers treating plasterboard waste may be able to take it for significantly less money than a landfill operator, who must charge for disposal and landfill tax
Find out which landfill sites are permitted to accept gypsum:
If you are managing waste gypsum or plasterboard
- Loads containing any identifiable gypsum or plasterboard must not be taken to landfill, but should be treated to remove the gypsum or plasterboard
- Where a load of gypsum or plasterboard has to go to landfill, it must be deposited in a separate cell where no biodegradable waste has been accepted
- The simplest method of treating gypsum or plasterboard is to separate it from other waste at the point of production
- Separated gypsum or plasterboard can be recycled or reused, for example in the manufacture of new plasterboard or for agricultural soil treatment. You can find your nearest recycler on the WRAP website
- It may be possible to dispose of gypsum or plasterboard in a separate cell with non-biodegradable waste such as asbestos or stable non-reactive hazardous waste. However this is technically difficult, so if you are a landfill operator considering developing such a cell you are advised to contact our local office for advice. More details can be found in Section 7.3 of our guidance below:
- Waste Acceptance at Landfills (Nov 2010)(PDF, 456KB)
- There are 47 permitted sites in England and Wales with such separate cells.
Plasterboard is not hazardous waste so the hazardous waste rules don’t apply.
Changes to guidance on gypsum waste
Gypsum, when mixed with biodegradable waste, can produce hydrogen sulphide gas in landfill which is both toxic and odorous. Science now confirms that the relationship between the amount of sulphate in waste and the production of hydrogen sulphide gas is complex. Therefore we cannot set an acceptable limit below which gypsum can be deposited with biodegradable waste without creating this gas.
The landfilling of gypsum and other high sulphate-bearing wastes with biodegradable waste has been prohibited in England and Wales since July 2005. However, we have been taking a pragmatic view that separate disposal of these substances is not necessary where a waste contains less than 10 per cent of gypsum or other high sulphate bearing waste. This is a working guideline that we always planned to review in response to scientific research.
Based on the science report, we have reviewed our position and revised our guidance to remove the 10 per cent guideline value.
Our intention is to encourage the reuse and recycling of more gypsum, whilst reducing the potential production of hydrogen sulphide gas at landfill.
From 1 April 2009, if gypsum or plasterboard is accepted for disposal in the same cell as biodegradable waste, we will take action in accordance with our enforcement and prosecution policy.
Boosting the market for gypsum recycling
Industry views have been sought on the draft Quality Protocol for gypsum from waste plasterboard. Unveiled last month by the Waste Protocols Project – a joint Environment Agency and WRAP initiative – the Protocol would see gypsum lose its waste tag, once it has been recycled to an agreed standard. This would help boost the market for gypsum recycling.
The consultation closed in January 09 but you can view the Quality Protocol consultation document online.
You can get more guidance on managing gypsum waste and alternative uses for it from WRAP