Saint-Gobain Gyproc is now recycling gypsum waste from its Brakpan, Cape Town and Germiston plants. Besides reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, the recycling solution has resulted in waste turned into fertiliser, which benefits agriculture.
The initiative has been coming a long time, says Elsa Lazenby, Gyproc’s environmental, site risk and systems manager. “We’ve been assessing the best ways to put our gypsum waste to good use, and we now have a solution that minimises waste and transforms it into a key ingredient in fertilisers.”
Gypsum fertiliser is a source of calcium and sulphur, which plants need for optimal growth. It also improves acid soils and treats aluminium toxicity, which strengthens roots.
The recycling process
One of the obstacles that Saint-Gobain Gyproc encountered, was that gypsum was classified as hazardous waste. Recent legislation, however, means that companies can now apply for specific products to be de-listed as waste, making recycling possible.
The recycling process, however, is simple. A waste management company removes the waste gypsum from the site, where it is treated to remove the paper and adjust the pH. It is then mixed with plant materials, such as leaves, and sold to farmers for use as fertiliser.
The company has managed to significantly reduce the gypsum waste volumes at its plants in the past three years, with the Brakpan plant reducing its waste tonnage by 95% and the Germiston plant by 80%. The Cape Town plant is ramping up its efforts and will soon be at a similar level of recycling.
Future legislation will make it impossible for companies to send waste to landfill, says Elsa.
“Landfill sites in the country only have about ten years of capacity left before they are full. Apart from the legal perspective, Saint-Gobain is committed to minimise the health and environmental impact of our products and systems at each stage of their lifecycle. It’s our priority to find better ways to manage waste.”
“This recycling initiative has brought a triple benefit – an environmental contribution by minimising landfill waste, support to agriculture and bottom-line benefits to Saint-Gobain,” concludes Elsa.