Waste not

Diverting waste from the landfill so it can be used again

Thanks to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and environmental awareness in general, industry is achieving remarkable waste diversion rates. Avoiding the landfill wouldn't be possible without innovative ways to recycle and reuse materials that would otherwise have nowhere to go.

Armstrong World Industries Inc. offers building owners an easy solution for ceiling tile. The company runs the Armstrong Recycling Center and takes back dry mineral and fibreglass ceiling tiles free of hazardous materials.

"Recyclers save on landfill, tipping and transportation costs," says Cindy O'Neill, Armstrong's assistant marketing communications specialist, from the company's office in Lancaster, Penn.

The old tiles provide recycled content to make new tiles, so there's a double benefit. Armstrong offers two types of ceiling panels that have the Ceiling-2-Ceiling designation, meaning they contain recycled content from reclaimed ceiling tiles.

Armstrong, which started the program in the United States in 1999, covers the cost of taking back the material on projects with at least 30,000 square feet of tile. If the project is smaller, contractors are advised to locate one of the company's certified ceiling recycling contractors.

Drywall companies are getting in on the recycling action too, particularly for LEED projects. Neal Pollock, president of TDL Drywall Inc. in Calgary, says his company sends waste drywall to New West Gypsum Recycling, a Langley, B.C., company with recycling plants around the world.

New West Gypsum recycles wallboard and gypsum from new construction and demolition, processes it and ends up with a product that drywall manufacturers can use to make new wallboard. The paper, which is separated from the gypsum during processing, is also recycled.

New West Gypsum has a plant in Calgary and there are other drywall recycling facilities throughout the province. There isn't one in Fort McMurray, Alta., however, making it a little more challenging to hit high diversion rates.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is building an approximately $20-million fire station and is targeting LEED Gold certification. The 4,000-square-metre station will be two storeys high and include an operational fire hall, fire administration office, fire fleet maintenance shop, training classroom, training tower, support facilities and an emergency operation centre.

It will have all the usual features found in LEED projects, such as highly efficient electrical and mechanical systems and on-site storm water management, and construction waste diversion will be important.

"We're reusing everything we can, but there are issues with the transportation of drywall," says Joseph Zachariah, project manager for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Sending the drywall to Edmonton may be too costly and result in a bigger carbon footprint than would be desired. A study is underway to determine what should be done with waste drywall. One option is to grind it and use it as a soil amendment on the site.

According to Darcy Edison, chief administrative officer and site manager of the Bow Valley Waste Commission in Canmore, Alta., that's becoming quite a common practice. The drywall waste is ground and put through a screen. Magnets are used to remove nails and screws. The ground drywall is used in compost because it brings the pH level of manure down.

Which just goes to show that with a bit of ingenuity combined with entrepreneurship, there's no limit to the industries that can take root once the need arises.

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