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Landfill sites not ready for gypsum

MATERIALS Disposal sites don't have capacity for European waste plasterboard regulations

REFURBISHMENT and demolition companies have warned that mountains of waste plasterboard could stack up this summer as strict new rules on the disposal of plasterboard come into force.

Interpretation of landfill rules by the Environment Agency will make it illegal to dispose large quantities of most forms of gypsum in anything other than specially designed cells on landfill sites after July 16.

The ruling is based on the high sulphate levels found in most forms of plasterboard.This, when combined with organic waste in traditional landfill sites, creates the 'stink bomb' gas hydrogen sulphide.

Plasterboard is common in almost all modern buildings.

But although the Environment Agency is currently examining a raft of applications from landfill sites to handle plasterboard, only a handful are ready for the summer deadline.

An Environment Agency spokesman said that firms such as demolition and refurbishment contractors which are likely to generate large amounts of plasterboard should consider other options for its disposal.

He said: 'As with all wastes that are routinely sent to landfill it is vital for waste producers to consider other waste management options.

'This should occur from the perspective of reducing our environmental burden, looking at options such as minimisation and recycling.

'This will occur as the cost of landfill continues to increase and the number of landfills in England and Wales is reduced.'

But a demolition industry source criticised this suggestion.

He said: 'It is all well and good saying that we should look at options other than landfill. But what are they?

'While some of the big plasterboard manufacturers do offer recycling they will only do so if you are producing huge amounts of plasterboard waste.They won't come and pick up a bit here or there, which is what you get when demolishing a building.'

Manufacturers are put off recycling plasterboard from construction sites because it uses more energy than producing virgin plasterboard and requires removal of any contamination from the waste.

But the Environment Agency claimed that small amounts of gypsum in demolition waste could be dumped as normal.

The spokesman said: 'It is important to note our working definition of 'gypsum-based and other high sulphatebearing wastes' are wastes with more than 10 per cent sulphate in any one load. Small quantities of plasterboard within a larger waste load would not require separation.'