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Walk this way for gypsum recycling

Waste should be treated as a resource, an attitude that has also helped save a hospital trust some cash. Nicola Henshaw, sales manager Tradebe reports

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the largest hospitals in the north of England. Around 1,200 patients from across the north-west region are referred to its orthotics team every year.

Casts from the orthotics department and the Royal Liverpool University Dental Hospital are made from fine, high-quality plaster. Andrew Johnson, energy manager at the Trust, saw the opportunity to recycle 20 tonnes of gypsum material producced annually, save around £1,440 a year and increase the environmental profile of the Trust.

Plaster casts produced by the hospitals are gypsum-based products that can be processed and recycled as an alternative to natural mined gypsum.

They are used by the orthotics service to manufacture foot orthoses. Foam impressions are taken of patients’ feet and are then filled in with plaster of Paris to produce a perfect cast. These are used in the department’s workshop to manufacture moulded insoles which are bespoke to each patient.

They do not come into contact with patients so are not classified as offensive waste, which allows them to be recycled.

Johnson approached waste management firm Tradebe, which has a local inorganic recycling facility based in Kirkby, Merseyside.

A cast sample was tested and analysed to ensure that it met quality standards, so now the waste can be crushed and passed through a rotating screen to produce gypsum granules.

Recycled gypsum has a number of applications, including as a raw material in the manufacture of products such as plasterboard and coving. It also has agricultural uses, such as for soil treatment.

One of the major developments by Tradebe was the product Cemset. This is used as an alternative to natural gypsum in the manufacture of cement for the prevention of flash setting, where cement starts to set quickly and produces heat. Cemset is created by milling gypsum with Portland cement clinker and is supplied as a product to many kilns across the UK.

Johnson says: “In addition to the financial savings, this was an excellent environmental opportunity to recycle and avoid landfill disposal. This has helped to reduce the Trust’s carbon footprint by 1.8 CO2 equivalent tonnes.”

Mike Crarer, UK recycle business manager at Tradebe, adds: “Many waste-producing businesses are not aware of the processing opportunities available.

“We run stream improvement programmes where we work with companies to improve their waste streams and look for better ways of processing and recycling that might be made possible. 

“Through this process, it is possible to significantly reduce waste costs, and in some cases, even turn costs into revenue which is a real win-win scenario.”


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