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AC11 - Testing and Evaluating Recycled Plasterboard Prototypes to assess Thermal and Moisture Performance

Written by: CIC Start Online

"Testing and Evaluating Recycled Plasterboard Prototypes to assess Thermal and Moisture Performance for Suitability as Insulation Material" by Glasgow Caledonian University and First Option Services


Plasterboard is made of a gypsum plaster core with a paper facing. Over 2.5 million tonnes of plasterboard are manufactured and used in the UK each year, and this is increasing. Plasterboard is used in construction for a range of applications including lining walls and ceiling
and forming partitions.

Plasterboard waste arises primarily through construction and demolition activities. Waste from new construction arises during installation through wasteful design, off-cuts, damaged boards, and over-ordering. Plasterboard waste is also generated from demolition and refurbishment activities, such as from removing partitions, refurbishing wall and ceiling linings, repairing damaged linings, and from complete soft-strip before demolition of a building. The increase in landfill tax and disposal costs, landfill restrictions and the focus on Site Waste Management plans are stimulating the increasing recovery of plasterboard. Disposal of plasterboard in landfill leads to a reduction in availability of scarce resources and if collected as a separate stream the material may be deemed as a ‘special waste’ and is subject to additional waste management controls and cost. To stimulate the recovery and recycling of plasterboard, SEPA, the Environment Agency and WRAP have developed PAS 109, a quality protocol that through establishing end of waste criteria and hence the classification of the recovered gypsum as a product, encourages the recycling of gypsum.

First Options Service Ltd is one of the first companies in Scotland to obtain the PAS 109 Quality standard and reprocess waste plasterboard from Scotland at their plant in Fife. Recovered gypsum is recycled to manufacture new plasterboard. However in order to maximise environmental benefits, income streams and diversity of outlets, the company in addition to supplying gypsum to plasterboard manufacturing is also seeking to identify and exploit new alternate markets.

The objectives of the project are to assist First Options identify and exploit the potential use of a special mixture of gypsum and paper sealed in recycled plastic to be used as cavity wall insulation for internal and external walls. We intend making several prototypes which can be tested using the facilities at Glasgow Caledonian University to assess their thermal and moisture performance. The theory is that if the results are positive from the above tests then we will have produced an insulation material that will never end up becoming a waste again. When any building using this material is refurbished or demolished in the future the material is simply returned for recycling and the remaking of new panels. We believe that this is a way to increase energy efficiency in new and old buildings whilst using a recycled product that will never again become waste. Success with the above testing would result in the removal of glass wools and expanded foams which are still very difficult to deal with when they have been stripped out.

Measurements of the thermal conductivity of the prototype material will be carried out using a LaserComp heat flow apparatus with a view to optimising the thermal performance of the gypsum/paper mixture: for example, the density of a sample can be changed by compression in the apparatus. The vapour diffusion resistance and moisture sorption properties of the optimised material will be measured to the relevant British Standards. A suitable panel containing the optimised material in a typical build-up will be tested in the Environmental Chamber to determine the U-value of the build-up under a temperature gradient by in situ heat flux sensor measurements.

Key words: building materials, recycling, gypsum plaster board, thermal insulation


Dr Paul Baker, Glasgow Caledonian University

For First Option Services Ltd

The outputs of this study will be disseminated in due course.







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