Cross-industry partnership realises “zero waste vision” for plasterboard
The new plant will have an annual capacity of around 60,000 tonnes and will therefore be able to cover the demand in the east of Austria. This will not only conserve Austrian raw material resources, which are not infinitely available, but also the limited landfill volume. This joint initiative will proactively fulfil the nationwide landfill ban for plasterboard that will come into force on 1 January 2026 and represent another milestone in the Austrian circular economy. Federal Minister Leonore Gewessler also welcomes the presented gypsum-to-plaster project. An investment sum of 7 million euros is required for the realisation, divided between the gypsum-to-gypsum (GzG) recycling plant and the logistics solution. Commissioning at the Saint-Gobain site in Stockerau is planned for mid-2025.
Gypsum-to-gypsum recycling – the circular economy is teamwork
PORR and Saubermacher are strong players in the demolition and disposal market, which ensures the delivery of plasterboard waste. Among other things, recycling specialist Saubermacher offers new digital logistics solutions to transport the gypsum waste from construction sites to the processing plant in a transparent and traceable manner. PORR recycles around 2 million tonnes of construction waste every year, making it the largest recycler in the Austrian construction industry. The majority of this replaces primary raw materials at the company’s own construction sites and plants.
After processing, the recycled gypsum (RC gypsum) is transported by rail to Bad Aussee, where the drywall specialist Saint-Gobain uses the recycled material to produce new plasterboard (RIGIPS boards). Up to 40 per cent recycled gypsum can be used in a new plasterboard. This conserves the raw material natural gypsum in equal measure. “Only a cross-sector partnership like this makes sustainable and economical recycling possible,” emphasised PORR, Saint-Gobain and Saubermacher in unison at a press conference. The economic efficiency of the project is the key to its success, as it is currently still extremely cost-effective to landfill offcuts and dismantled plasterboard. As a result, almost 100 per cent of the demolition material has ended up in landfill so far.
No recycling without single-origin collection
“Gypsum can be recycled endlessly, but special quality criteria must be met so that recycled gypsum can be used in the production of new boards,” explains Peter Giffinger, CEO Austria at Saint-Gobain
. Professional pre-sorting on construction sites is therefore essential. “We are entering uncharted territory with the separation by type on construction sites in Austria. Among other things, we at PORR are currently investigating the optimum degree of shredding to enable good processing of the demolition material in the new plant,” says PORR COO Josef Pein. “Successful recycling depends not only on the quality of the material, but also heavily on the quantity,” emphasises Ralf Mittermayr, CEO at Saubermacher. The effort only pays off if enough material is delivered. Saubermacher is one of Austria’s largest construction site waste management companies alongside PORR. The company has direct access to waste producers via its own waste disposal centres and, for example, the digital collection platform wastebox, which means that the separate collection of plaster waste can be trained and thus better implemented.
A legal framework is essential
The legal framework plays a decisive role for a “genuine circular economy”. This is because the three project partners have set themselves the clear goal of complying with the EU legal targets in relation to high-quality recycling. The aim of this legislative text is therefore not only to prevent waste going to landfill from 1 January 2026, but also to promote the circular economy recycling of plasterboard. For this reason, PORR, Saint-Gobain and Saubermacher are in favour of the draft Recycling Gypsum Ordinance, which promotes the recycling of gypsum and at the same time guarantees the high quality of recycled gypsum.
Ensuring the supply of raw materials
Gypsum is a natural raw material that is not endlessly available. The popular building material is extracted in mining or is a by-product of chemical processes and flue gas desulphurisation in coal-fired power plants (FGD gypsum). Due to the European Commission’s Green Deal, all coal-fired power plants are to be shut down by 2035, making the regional supply of raw materials even more important.
The Austrian federal government’s “Raw Materials 2030” masterplan is dedicated to ensuring a secure supply. The European raw materials strategy also emphasises domestic sources and recycling. In order to prevent a shortage of gypsum as a raw material, more emphasis is to be placed on recycling as a supplementary source. Gips-zu-Gips Recycling GmbH is taking on a pioneering role in Austria.