Natural Gypsum

Despite the fact that quarrying in some form or other has been carried out since the Stone Age and counts - along with the procurement of food and housing - as one of the basic activities of human beings, people still tend to regard this kind of activity with distrust and fear its effects on the local environment. Furthermore, nowadays, citizens and governments are looking carefully at how natural resources are used and in what quantities, to ensure security of supply.

The two main questions for the Gypsum Industry to answer are:

  • how to recover natural resources at the end of the product life cycle (i.e. at the recycling phase), and
  • how we can safely substitute the natural resources

Gypsum is extracted from open-cast mines or underground mines using room and pillars mining methods. The extraction process implies an unavoidable impact on the landscape and the natural environment. However, human activity does not necessarily mean loss of biodiversity and danger for eco-systems. Human activity can also result in a richer biodiversity. The development of a gypsum quarry creates indeed the favorable conditions that provide habitats for rare species. Through careful management, quarries significantly enhance the biodiversity of an area and provide much needed habitats and refuges for wildlife.

The European Gypsum Industry:

  • Fully comply with the national mining codes;
  • Minimise noise and vibration;
  • Minimise dust;
  • Minimise visual impacts;
  • Promote biodiversity.

In 2013, The European Gypsum Industry has worked with the University of Liège (Agro-tech Gembloux) to develop a performance framework for biodiversity management throughout Europe. Put link to brochure in English and Spanish.

In past decades, the conception that quarries were dusty and sterile environments where animals and native plants were absent has switched slowly to places where a real potential for biodiversity exists. In reality, quarries promote wildlife in being refuges for biodiversity as they construct non-permanent and diversified habitats in sometimes homogeneous landscapes. Careful quarry management can significantly enhance biodiversity.

The final consensus KPIs framework for gypsum quarries contains eleven indicators which are the most acceptable set of indicators for all the stakeholders and answers to European legislation and strategies for biodiversity. This framework is intended to improve sustainability in the quarries and to help to manage biodiversity allowing setting-up of appropriate reporting systems in order to maintain the biodiversity status of gypsum quarries.

It is a flexible framework adaptable given the local context of each gypsum quarry. That means that it is a set that may be implemented differently given the local context of each quarry. It is developed to follow the biodiversity management at a scale of a quarry over time, in order to be able at the closure of the quarry to establish if a global No Net Loss is reached.

Consensus KPIs Framework for Gypsum Quarries
1Number of native species in selected taxonomic group
2Abundance of selected species in the quarry
3Number of protected species in the quarry
4Number of Red list species in the quarry
5Abundance of protected/Red list  species  in the quarry
6Number of habitats in the quarry
7Surface of selected habitats in the quarry
8Numbers of invasive alien species in the quarry
9Freshwater quality
10Surface of habitats restored
11For one quarry, state of the communication and participation activities organised for the last five years

 

FGD Gypsum: alternative to natural Gypsum

The production of FGD (Flue Gas Desulphurisation) Gypsum in power plants has made available a raw material identical to natural Gypsum in both specifications and quality standards. Thanks to the acceptance of FGD Gypsum as a raw material, geologically lower-quality natural Gypsum can be used with FGD Gypsum, whose purity is very high, in the production of Gypsum products.

FGD Gypsum is the end product of a wet purification procedure with natural lime that essentially forms according to the same laws as natural Gypsum–but in a speeded-up process taking only a few hours. FGD Gypsum has a higher purity (Gypsum content of 96%) than most natural Gypsum (80%). This means that lower quality Gypsum can be blended with high purity Desulphogypsum, allowing material that would not have been mined in the past to be classified as exploitable reserves.

The coal combustion power plants are closing in Europe and FGD gypsum is expected to decrease sharply in the next 10 years. Hence, the Gypsum industry is looking at natural gypsum and extension of mines or opening of new mines.

Put the link to the Raw Material survey of 2016

Recycled Gypsum: a resource for the future:closing the loop

Eurogypsum supports:

  • The circular economy concept;
  • Think waste as a resource;
  • Discard landfilling through legal and economic framework;
  • Promote Deconstruction versus demolition;
  • Promote design for recycling and deconstruction.

For recycling to happen effectively, The Gypsum Industry needs:

  • Deconstruction as a common practice all over Europe;
  • Separation of the waste on site (including off-cuts from construction waste);
  • Constant volumes and constant quality of the recycled gypsum;
  • Promoting trust and transparency in the value chain.

Plasterboard is indefinitely recyclable

Gypsum products can be counted amongst the very few construction materials where “closed-loop” recycling is possible, i.e. where the waste is used to make the same product again. Gypsum as such is 100% and eternally recyclable. You can always reuse Gypsum because the chemical composition of the raw material in plasterboards and blocks always remains the same.

The European Gypsum Industry wishes to rationalise even more its efforts in conjunction with the relevant operators in the construction chain to recover construction and demolition waste. The Gypsum Industry takes advantage of the eternal recyclability of Gypsum to move the construction chain towards a positive environmental footprint.

Enhancing the access to natural resources by developing outstanding C&D waste management will divert C&D waste from landfill applying the waste hierarchy (prevent-reuse-recycle-recover-dispose) in accordance with the life-cycle impact of gypsum products and systems (from cradle to cradle).

Waste Prevention: Design for Construction

  • Promotion of an efficient and interactive dialogue with Construction Site Managers for proper storage,handling, sequencing, fixing and finishing of gypsum products and systems;
  • Promotion of demountable and reusable partitions for commercial buildings;
  • Promotion of, whenever feasible, bespoke size boards (plasterboards, fibreboards and blocks).

Waste Disposal Reduction Measures: Design for Deconstruction

  • Promotion of research and development for the design of gypsum products and systems which ensure that recycling is maximised, i.e. that diversion from landfill is taking place effectively;
  • Promotion of selective deconstruction and sorting amongst the relevant stakeholders and more particularly the demolition industry;
  • Promotion of research and development for ensuring the proper recycling of gypsum demolition waste;

Optimisation of the internal recycled material input capacity of gypsum manufacturing plants.