Gypsum products

Gypsum is used mainly for soundproofing and wind-proofing boards and these are also good moisture regulators. The products are cast from 90-95% gypsum which has fibreglass added (0.1 % by weight) as reinforcement. The following constituents are also usually added, to a total weight of 1%: calcium lingo-sulphate, ammonium sulphate and an organic retardant. In the wind-proofing boards the additives include silicone (0.3% by weight). The boards are often covered in cardboard glued with a potato flour paste or polyvinyl acetate (PVAC). Acoustic boards have a covering of woven fibreglass on the surface.

Gypsum is sourced both from coal-fired power stations as a by-product and from nature. In both cases, raw material availability is good, even if it is hoped that polluting coal power stations become less common in future. However, it should also be noted that the extraction of natural gypsum often has a large impact on the local natural environment.

The materials needed for the additives are partly renewable, partly obtained from fossil oils. The cardboard covering is produced from a minimum of 90% recycled cellulose.

Apart from dust, the production of gypsum boards has no particular problems. However, there can be problematic chemical additives, such as the retarding agent diethyl triamine, which is a strong respiratory irritant. Methyl chloride, which is a nerve gas, is employed in the production of silicone. Once in the building, however, gypsum products cause no problems.

Gypsum products are less well-suited for re-use, but can be recycled by using 5 to 15% waste gypsum in new products. The gypsum industry is very centralized, which often makes recycling an uneconomic proposition. There is a chance of sulphur pollution from demolition and building waste because of microbiological breakdown.

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