What to Do with Leftover Drywall
Every year, 15 million pounds of drywall are produced in the U.S. Most of it goes on walls, but around 15 percent is waste. What should be done with it?
With the possible exception of professional drywall installers and plasterers, no one likes working with drywall. It’s heavy and crumbly and hard to cut cleanly. And don’t even start about taping and mudding — nothing but mess and dust.
But 15 million pounds of drywall is produced in the U.S. every year. Most of it goes on walls, but around 15 percent is leftover waste. What should be done with it?
Drywall is essentially gypsum (calcium sulfate) and water spread on paper backing and kiln-fired in 4-ft. x 8-ft. (or 10-ft. or 12-ft.) sheets. Calcium sulfate is a natural mineral with beneficial properties in your lawn or garden soil. It’s also reclaimable; a portion of the drywall sheets you buy at the home center is likely derived from recycled drywall.
But few if any curbside recycling programs allow drywall. That means you need to do some legwork if you’re a recycling advocate. It is possible, though. Inquire about bulky materials via a recycling clearinghouse such as 1-800-RECYCLING.
You can also re-purpose drywall by peeling off the paper. Just start at one corner and pull; it comes off pretty easily. Then crush the gypsum back into powder form and spread it on your garden or lawn. Gypsum can help improve soil structure and reduce erosion.
You can also add crushed drywall with the paper backing removed to your compost bin. Be aware, though, that decomposing drywall gypsum is notoriously smelly.
If you are a DIYer, it makes sense to keep a few usable scraps of drywall around for repairs. Otherwise, you’ll end up buying an entire 4 x 8 sheet for a relatively small fix. If you are a creative type, know the paper backing on drywall takes paint well. You can use drywall as a canvas for your artwork.
Unless you can recycle or repurpose it, it’s best to get rid of leftover drywall. Garbage haulers generally will take it if it’s broken down and bagged up. If you are keeping some, store it in a dry space, since drywall (expect for the special mold-resistant kind) is a hospitable host for mold and mildew.