How USA Gypsum became a drywall recycling pioneer - Construction & Demolition Recycling

2022-04-25 06:47:44 By : Ms. Penny Su

USA Gypsum has established itself as one of the few standalone drywall recyclers in the U.S. thanks to its commitment to creating markets.

While recycled gypsum is widely embraced today for its use as a soil amendment, agricultural bedding additive and for other applications, it wasn’t too long ago that the potential for drywall recycling was largely untapped.

Terry Weaver, president of Denver, Pennsylvania-based USA Gypsum, says that his entrée into the world of gypsum recycling was largely a matter of happenstance.

In the mid-1990s, Weaver was making a living running a construction company and operating farms. Michael W. Brubaker, who was serving as Weaver’s agronomist at the time, began to explore the potential for improving the quality of agricultural land by introducing gypsum to serve as a soil amendment, conditioner and fertilizer.

“Michael Brubaker came up with this concept of using gypsum to improve the soil, but there was none available nearby. That was prior to even the advent of FGD gypsum, so you were stuck with relying on mines from Nova Scotia or Michigan as a source,” Weaver says. “He started testing the core of drywall around 1996 to see if it was suitable, and it appeared like it was, so he set about to develop a system to remove the outer paper of the drywall from the drywall core, which is an important part of what you do in gypsum recycling, and he came up with a nice little system to do that, but it was small. In 1998, USA Gypsum was formed.”

Shortly after developing this system to recycle drywall, Brubaker decided to sell his agronomy business and run for state Senate, which he was ultimately successful at.

Needing someone to take over the recycling operation, Brubaker turned to Weaver to take the reins.

“He called me and just said, ‘Hey, I don't know if this is something that could be scaled up, but do you think it could be a real business?’ After thinking about it, it seemed like a good idea to me, so I decided to agree to take over the operations,” Weaver says.

With a large extended family and friends in the region making a living in agriculture, Weaver was able to find early adopters interested in using recycled gypsum. Soon, demand in the area began to outpace the production capabilities of that first recycling facility, resulting in Weaver moving the business to a larger facility in 2000.

It was around this time that Weaver, who was still managing a construction business, decided to go all in on the new recycling venture.

“I didn't put all my eggs in that [recycling] basket for a little while because I didn't know how far we could scale it up, but within a couple of years, I said to myself, ‘Yeah, I think this is going to be OK,’” he says.

Due to USA Gypsum’s rural location, the initial end markets were almost exclusively agricultural. However, over time, Weaver began to search for and find other outlets for the gypsum the company extrapolated from incoming wallboard generated from C&D processors, manufacturers, and construction and building material suppliers.

“Our markets initially were all agriculture because that was the purpose of starting the business, but over the years, we developed some other markets,” he says. “The three big users of gypsum are first wallboard manufacturers—that's by far the largest. Second is for the production of Portland cement, and third is agriculture and incidental uses. We started supplying the cement industry around 2003, and that was our first instance of branching out from agricultural customers. And then over the years, other people have found us for a variety of things, anything from reclaiming contaminated soils to clearing up muddy ponds. We have a lot of different applications.”

More recently, Weaver says that the company began to supply some wallboard manufacturers with gypsum. However, the inherent economics of supplying wallboard manufacturers can make it a challenge for recyclers, Weaver notes.

He says that one of the initial challenges of supplying wallboard manufacturers is that many manufacturers set up shop adjacent to a port or power plant to ensure an economical source of gypsum is available. Additionally, the vast quantities of gypsum that these customers require make it difficult for recyclers to meet the demand. Then there is the issue that different consistencies of recycled gypsum might require manufacturers to take additional steps to blend or handle the material to make it right for their processes and equipment.

On the flip side, Weaver notes that the growing demand for companies to champion sustainable practices and embrace a closed loop model of operation has helped USA Gypsum market its products to these customers.

“I believe personally that in the future, [the closed loop approach] is going to be an important part of gypsum drywall recycling, and that really that needs to happen in order for it to really be scaled up nationwide to where it becomes a standard practice,” he says.

Part and parcel of finding markets involves continuing to refine processing practices, Weaver notes.

USA Gypsum uses various magnets and a pick line to remove incidental non-magnetic contaminants and other debris from the 200 to 250 tons of incoming material the company accepts every day between its two Pennsylvania-based facilities. While Weaver keeps the specifics of the company’s sorting equipment and processes close to the vest, he notes that the company is constantly working to evaluate technological advances for improved separation capabilities.

In 2015, the company constructed an all-new process plant, which marked another evolution in the company’s ability to handle incoming material.

“I think the equipment that we have installed right now would be the fifth complete version we’ve used since our founding. By that. I mean a dramatically different form of equipment. There's been this progression both in volume [we’ve been able to process] and quality of materials we are able to generate, and we just keep on tweaking it to get it right,” he says.

Weaver says the company is currently looking at investing in some new equipment to further improve the company’s separation efficiency. Down the line, he says the company is also keeping an eye on the economics and potential for robotic sorting to replace the company’s manual sorting processes, but Weaver wants to see more to ensure the technology provides an ROI before making the investment.

USA Gypsum’s commitment to continually refining its sorting processes, as well as its capacity to create new gypsum products for different applications, has allowed the company to diversify its reach.

Weaver says that due to the nature of transportation costs, roughly 60 percent of the company’s volumes are shipped within 150 miles. However, Weaver says that the company’s work blending materials to produce value-added products and packaging it in bags and super sacks has been an important aspect in helping the business reach new customers.

He says USA Gypsum’s rigorous devotion to finding end market solutions can be traced back to the origins of the company.

“Our entry into the business and focus on the business has always been end markets, not because we're smarter than anybody, but because it was a necessity,” he says. “A lot of people I see approach the business are from the recycling side and the focus just naturally tends to be on acquiring material and then cost avoidance on the outbound side. We just started on the other foot and stayed focused in that way. I think that's why we're one of the few standalone drywall recyclers in the country.”

Beyond the products themselves, USA Gypsum’s approach to serving the customer is something Weaver says has helped differentiate the company from large traditional gypsum suppliers. He says USA Gypsum works to accommodate custom orders and provide personal service in a way that these companies might not be able or willing to do.

“That's where we've found a niche of sorts—working to fill orders for those customers who might not be regular users. Maybe it’s someone doing work clarifying ponds or someone who owns a golf course and is looking for a soil amendment. Being able to step up to fill these one-off and custom orders has been a real value-added side of our business,” Weaver says.

“I think [providing quality customer service] is how we’ve worked to serve our niche clients,” he adds. “The personalized service that we can offer is a good match and we pride ourselves on that. We try to answer the phone, we try to be available to answer questions and we're pretty open trying to be helpful. We've developed a nice little business out of that.”

This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine. The author is the editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and can be reached at

Ralph Velocci was most recently a senior vice president at Waste Pro and on the company’s board.

Waste Pro, Longwood, Florida, has announced that Ralph Velocci died July 15 at the at age 72. 

Velocci most recently was a senior vice president at Waste Pro and a member of the company’s board of directors.

Velocci grew up in Long Island, New York, where he got his start in the industry working on his father’s garbage trucks. According to the company, he first worked with Waste Pro founder John Jennings in the 1990s at USA Waste when the company acquired Waste Management, and later reconnected with Jennings at Waste Pro in 2009. From there, Velocci led Waste Pro’s commercial sales and oversaw the company’s landfill and recycling operations.

According to a statement from the company, “Velocci made a difference in the lives of people around him. He acted as a mentor to many in the company and industry, generously offering his time, knowledge and expertise. He was beloved and respected by his family, friends, all of his Waste Pro family and will be greatly missed.”

“Ralph was an exceptional businessman. He loved the simple things around him and never took for granted how fortunate he was,” Jennings says. “He was the son of Italian immigrants who lived the American Dream with a strong personality whose impact will last a long time.”

Aceros Arequipa buys former Grimmel Industries shredder yard in Palmetto, Florida.

Peru-based electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaker Corporación Aceros Arequipa S.A. (CAASA) says it has agreed to purchase an auto shredder yard in Florida formerly operated by Topsham, Maine-based Grimmel Industries. CAASA also will acquire a second Grimmel yard in St. Petersburg, Florida, as part of the transaction.

In an announcement posted to its website, CAASA says it has “signed a contract to purchase the assets of two business units that collect metal cargo located in Florida” and that the acquisition was made through two subsidiaries created to undertake the purchase: Aceros America Port Manatee LLC and Aceros America St. Pete LLC.

According to the 2020 Recycling Today Auto Shredder List and Map, a shredder is operated by Grimmel Industries in Palmetto, Florida, known as Port Manatee Scrap Recycling. Palmetto is on the Gulf Coast of Florida, about 40 miles south of Tampa.

The CAASA announcement states in part, “Among the main assets acquired are two 116,000-square-meter (1.25-million-square-foot) yards, a 6,000 horsepower and 450 RPM [revolutions per minute] shredder, as well as a magnetic metal separator that will allow the segregation of nonferrous material for export mainly to Asia.”

The EAF steelmaker says it expects to supply itself with 100,000 tons of ferrous scrap per year from the Florida operations, “reinforcing the supply of recycled steel” for its upgraded EAF melt shop in Pisco, Peru.

“The new furnace requires almost 400,000 tons per year or more, so we must assure the volume," Diego Arróspide Benavides, the strategic sourcing manager at Aceros Arequipa, tells Recycling Today. He adds that “100 percent of the ferrous scrap will be shipped to Pisco" from Florida. 

“In this way, the company continues to consolidate its expansion and integration of the value chain, ensuring the raw material for the production of international quality steel,” comments Tulio Silgado, general manager of Aceros Arequipa.

Vaughn Ali has almost 20 years of experience working in the industry.

Connect Work Tools, a division of Exodus Global that is based in Superior, Wisconsin, has added Vaughn Ali to its team as a regional business manager for the Southeast. Ali has almost 20 years in the industry and most recently was the Southeast territory manager for Lockport, New York-based Moley Magnetics Inc.

“I have had the opportunity to work with Exodus Global’s team for several years as a vendor and have watched them grow,” Vaughn says. “Two things that have always stayed consistent are their positive energy and their reputation to exceed customers’ expectations. When the chance to work with Geordie Stewart and the Connect Work Tools group came to me, it was an opportunity that felt natural and like being home. I am truly grateful to have this opportunity. I am excited to be able to help this division grow and take care of our customers.”

Geordie Stewart, director of sales at Connect Work Tools, adds, “I have gotten to work with Vaughn on joint deals over the past years with mutual customers. Vaughn’s reputation for customer service, product knowledge and his drive to go above and beyond is exactly what Connect Work Tools is focused on to grow our business. Everyone who has dealt with Vaughn has nothing but great things to say, and we are beyond thrilled to get to add him to our team in the Southeast.”

Founded in 2015, Connect Work Tools offers attachments, including hydraulic breakers, compactors, rotating grapples and pulverizers for the construction, demolition, recycling and mining industries. The business division also offers rebuild services and reconditioned equipment.

The company says the new shredder is ideal for producing refuse-derived fuel.

Metso Outotec has introduced the M&J F320, a powerful flagship in the company’s new FineShredder series targeting the production of alternative fuels like refuse-derived fuel (RDF) or solid recovered fuel (SRF). Created in-house and equipped with an extra-long rotor, it can deliver 23 tons per hour (90 percent below 50 millimeters).

According to the company, the M&J F320 is particularly suitable to produce RDF and SRF in homogeneous sizes. It is built to perform with minimal downtime and has several advantages, including up to 35 percent lower operating expenses, low total installed power requirements and low operational energy costs.

Metso says the low operating costs are due to an innovative design, which features a unique cutting system that requires minimal daily maintenance. Once the rotor knives and static knives have been set in the initial setup, or after a change of knife holders, it does not require routine adjustment.

The M&J F320 also generates a limited amount of heat, so operators can avoid downtime due to materials such as molten plastic.

A unique feature of the M&J F320’s construction is the location of wear parts. The service team has easy access to everything and can replace all wear parts quickly to avoid lengthy maintenance. There is easy access to the shaft from both sides for servicing and cleaning—and the knife blocks have been designed for easy replacement.

Maintenance can be reduced by up to two-thirds with the M&J F320, according to the company, offering higher production yield and significant running cost benefits.

“The M&J F320 is the flagship of our new FineShred series. It delivers towering capacity and is extremely energy efficient. At the same time, you get thoroughly tested quality and a well-thought-out construction that makes servicing and maintenance easier than ever. It will set a new industry standard in the production of alternative fuels like RDF/SRF,” said Morten Kiil Rasmussen, commercial director for Metso Outotec Waste Recycling.