Is Drywall Biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: June 15, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

What should you do with the old drywall you have?Also known as plasterboard, drywall is a popular building material in the United States with so many benefits. 

It’s highly affordable, fire-resistant, and offers exceptional insulation.

The burning question that people want answered reads “is drywall biodegradable?

Drywall comprises natural elements, including gypsum and water, which makes it biodegrade easily – however, the process often results in emission of inherent toxic gasses like hydrogen sulfite to the environment.

This posts talks about everything regarding the biodegradability of drywall: 

What Is Drywall Made Of?

Drywall is mostly made of gypsum, a mineral in sedimentary rocks, wood and plywood pulp, and asbestos cement board. 

All these materials get mixed with water, then forced through a screen to create a sheet of uniform thickness.

The sheets get chopped into different sizes and dried. 

Additional ingredients may get added to the drywall mixture to create different finishes, such as paint or wallpaper. 

The resulting drywall serves as a crucial raw material for the building industry. 

Is Drywall Biodegradable?

Drywall is biodegradable. It mainly contains gypsum, a soft rock that degrades relatively quickly in the environment by the action of bacteria. 

Gypsum absorbs water, swells, then crumbles, and finally decomposes.

Drywall also consists of paper lined with vinyl adhesive. 

The paper liner breaks down over time in the presence of bacteria and moisture. 

The wood used in drywall also degrades quickly. Given that wood is a natural product,it will decompose within a few months. 

Drywall contains biodegradable asbestos coatings as well.

Drywall’s biodegradation rate depends on the climate, soil type, and the presence of bacteria. 

In general, gypsum can degrade anywhere between 6 months and a year.

When drywall biodegrades under oxygen-depleted conditions for a long time, such as in a landfill or buried underground covered in a hole, its contents decay. 

But this decomposition may endanger humans – not to mention the environment.

The decomposition of drywall releases poisonous gasses such as sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfite, and other dangerous elements that are harmful to the earth. 

These pollutants can cause respiratory problems. It’s essential to ensure any degraded drywall is correctly disposed of.

While drywall is biodegradable, it may pose numerous challenges during decomposition than when it’s not biodegraded. 

Consider sending the used drywall for recycling. Doing so can save the environment from tons of adverse effects.

Can You Compost Drywall?

Can You Compost Drywall?

You can. Since drywall is biodegradable, it will eventually break down into simple compounds to form manure. 

According to researchers, drywall, with its biodegradable materials and full of nutrients, is an excellent compost additive for land reclamation projects.

If you want to compost drywall in your backyard compost bin, be sure to crush it first. 

However, be aware that decomposing drywall gypsum is risky as the process releases toxic gasses such as sulfur dioxide that is harmful to the ecosystem. 

The gasses do cause harmful health effects to people living near the compost.

The best way to compost drywall is to do so in an industrial setting. 

Your local recycling center should be able to take your drywall and compost it for you. 

Contact your local recycling center first to know the specific guidelines for what they will and will not accept.

How Long Does Drywall Take to Decompose?

The time it takes for gypsum to degrade depends on factors such as:

  • Climate. Drywall will decompose faster in a humid climate than in a dry climate.
  • The presence of bacteria. Gypsum is a good food source for some types of bacteria, which can speed up the decomposition process.
  • Type of gypsum board. The type and quality of the gypsum board will affect how long it takes to degrade.
  • Soil type. The soil type will also affect how quickly the gypsum board will decompose.

Drywall takes around a few months to up to 10 or more years to decompose completely. 

In ideal landfill conditions, with little to no oxygen and moisture, drywall can take up to 10 years to break down.

But if the landfill has more moisture and oxygen, decomposition will take place significantly faster. 

This releases harmful greenhouse gasses like methane.

Drywall is made out of gypsum, a mineral mainly composed of calcium sulfate. When gypsum is combined with water, it forms a weak acid that slowly corrodes away at the drywall’s structure.

Is Biodegradation of Drywall Harmful?

Biodegrading drywall is harmful to the environment and human health. 

The process releases harmful pollutants such as hydrogen sulfite and sulfur dioxide gasses

These gasses can be harmful to humans and the environment.

The biodegradation process can also release toxic gas into soil or water, which is harmful to aquatic life or organisms.

But there are ways to speed up the biodegradation process without releasing these harmful pollutants. One way is to use a microbial agent to help break down the drywall.

What To Do With Leftover Drywall

Once you’ve ripped out all the old drywall, you probably wonder what to do with it. Here are a few ways to handle used drywall:

  • Compost it: Drywall is biodegradable, so you can add it to your compost bin to decompose it.
  • Find a local landfill that will accept it. However, many landfills are hesitant to take drywall because it can become a breeding ground for mold and pests.
  •  Sell it to a local construction company or renovation company. They may be willing to buy it from you since they can use it for their projects.
  •  Recycle it. You can take drywall to a recycling facility to reclaim gypsum for use in various applications. Take advantage of any curbside recycling programs in your area.
  • Repurpose it. Peel off the paper, crush the gypsum and spread the powder on your lawn or garden.
  • Save it. You can save the leftover drywall for future wall repairs.

How Can I Make My Drywall More Sustainable?

Making your drywall more sustainable is easy. Start by purchasing drywall that’s made with recycled materials. 

Alternatively, install drywall that features biodegradable materials, meaning it will break down and return to the earth after being demolished.

Bottom Line

Drywall is often seen as a nuisance to deal with during renovation or construction. It’s dusty, and a lot of work is needed to get rid of it. But what happens to drywall when it’s time to get rid of it? 

Although it biodegrades, it does cause harm to the environment in just a matter of time. Do it with caution. 

If you don’t want to biodegrade or compost drywall, you can repurpose it, take it for recycling, sell or save it for future repairs of your walls.

Can You Recycle Boxes With Tape On Them?

Previous Post

Can You Recycle Boxes With Tape On Them?

Next Post

Is Weed Wacker String Biodegradable?

Is Weed Wacker String Biodegradable?