Is drywall mud biodegradable? (5 ways to deal with biodegradable mud) 


In this article, it shall be explored whether drywall mud is biodegradable or not. It will also be assessed whether drywall mud is safe for the environment too. Major elaborations on the topic would be: 

  • What is drywall mud?
  • What is the composition of drywall and drywall mud?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Is drywall mud biodegradable?
  • Is drywall mud safe for the environment?
  • What can you do with your drywall mud?
  • FAQs

Is drywall mud biodegradable?

Yes, drywall mud is biodegradable because it is made from natural materials. Gypsum is the main component of drywall mud which is a mineral. However, despite being biodegradable, drywall mud still poses threats to the environment. 

The degradation of drywall mud causes the release of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphides. These gases are harmful to both human health and the environment. 

These gases may cause lung issues (even lung cancer in case of prolonged exposure) along with other complications such as skin irritation, throat and eye infections. Among the environmental impacts, there are deforestation, acid rain, and water contamination. 

What is drywall mud?

Drywall mud can be explained as a holding paste which is derived from Gypsum and is involved in a number of drywall finishing processes. The qualities that drywall mud gives off make it a good fit to be used to finish drywall. 

Drywall is basically a panel that is used in interior walls and ceilings. This panel is usually made from sulphate dihydrates, plywood, asbestos cement board, and gypsum. This drywall is easy to install, durable and easily repairable. 

Other than these perks, drywall gives an overall neat and aesthetic look to your interior. Drywall mud is the holding glue that holds the drywall intact while also giving off a number of other benefits as well.

Drywall mud is heat resistant and offers insulation. This implies that the use of drywall mud ensures that your house remains at optimum temperature. This feature is also very environmentally friendly. 

Improved insulation implies that the burden on appliances such as air conditioning is lessened and resultantly, the overall burden on renewable and non-renewable resources is reduced. 

The composition of drywall mud usually is gypsum, which is a mineral. Gypsum dust is mixed with water to form a paste to be used as drywall mud to provide finishing and insulation to drywall. 

What is the composition of drywall and drywall mud?

To be able to know if a product is safe for the environment or not, it is important to first know what that particular product is made from. If the product is made from natural ingredients, then chances are that it is environmentally friendly. 

The general composition of drywall consists of the following material:

  • Gypsum 
  • Wallboard
  • Plasterboard
  • Cellulose 
  • EDTA 
  • Potassium Sulphate
  • Starch 
  • Paper or fibreglass fibres 
  • Wax emulsions

If the composition is discussed from a quantitative point of view, then drywall is almost 90 percent gypsum and the remaining 10 percent is cellulose which is present in the paper present on both sides of drywall.

When it comes to the composition of drywall mud, the major component used is a mineral called gypsum. This gypsum is used with water to be made into a paste which is then used as a joint compound (another name for drywall mud). 

The history of drywall mud dates back to the early 1900s when it was manufactured by the US Gypsum company as a cheap alternative to interior materials. 

It is also known that other than gypsum, other materials are also used to make drywall mud. These include calcium carbonate and talcum. Calcium carbonate is a mineral just like gypsum whereas talcum is the powder to give a refined structure to the drywall mud. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is the process through which complex materials are broken down into simple materials by the action of microbes. It is the natural way of discarding used by mother nature. 

The simpler substances that are obtained after the degradation process simply become a part of nature and this way the wastes are dealt with while causing no harm or threat to the environment or life in general. 

However, with the advent of industrialisation and consumerism, many artificial and synthetic products have also been created. The internal structures of these products are designed as such to give off maximum economical advantages. 

But, that is exactly where the environmental-economic tradeoff happens. While these synthetic materials offer a prime economical edge, they also offer optimum risks to the environment by not being able to degrade under natural conditions. 

This ability of synthetic products not being able to degrade affects the environment in a number of ways. Perhaps the best example can be plastics. 

Plastics are man-made polymers that microbes can not degrade and as a result, they persist in the environment for hundreds of years. Other than that, they also cause life-related and environmental risks. 

The accumulated plastics affect hundreds of aquatic and land species causing deaths and species endangerment. Plastics also cause medium change such as soil toxicity and infiltration of various parts of food chains. 

The medical complications given off by plastics are also well known including cancer, liver and stomach dysfunction, and neurological problems– to name a few. 

Given this context, it is very important for the material to be biodegradable because otherwise, it will become for us to manage waste given the fact that the world already has almost reached its carrying capacity. 

Is drywall mud biodegradable?

Yes, drywall mud is biodegradable because it is composed of natural elements like calcium carbonate, gypsum and talcum. These natural ingredients used to make drywall mud can degrade in a few months to one year. 

However, being biodegradable does not necessarily imply that drywall mud is safe for the environment, let alone people. The material used to make drywall mud releases harmful gases during the degradation process which are harmful to both humans and the environment. 

Gypsum is the main material used to make drywall mud. The degradation of gypsum causes the release of harmful gases like sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. These gases cause a number of harmful impacts on human health.

These impacts include problems to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Some studies have also linked lung cancer to prolonged exposure to sulphides. The main driver of lung cancer is the asbestos used in drywall mud. 

Other than medical risks, the degradation of drywall mud raises environmental concerns as well. Research has already linked leeching to the biodegradation of drywall mud. The release of sulphur dioxide causes acid rain, deforestation, and deterioration of water bodies. 

The deterioration of water bodies also imply that aquatic life also suffers because of the degradation of drywall mud. 

Does biodegradable mean 100% safe?

No, being biodegradable does not necessarily mean 100% safe. A product or substance may be biodegradable but despite that, it still can cause harm to the environment. 

Drywall mud can be a good example of it. Although drywall mud is made from natural ingredients and minerals like gypsum and these materials can degrade naturally; drywall mud is still harmful to the environment and life in general. 

Therefore, just because something is tagged as biodegradable, it does not necessarily mean that it is safe for the environment. Therefore, it rests upon us as consumers to probe deeper into our consumer inclinations and match them best with the principles of sustainability. 

What can you do with your drywall mud? (5 ways to deal with drywall mud) 

Since it is now established that drywall mud is unsafe for the environment despite being biodegradable, you must be wondering what you can do with your drywall mud. 

There are a couple of options that can be explored while being sustainable and sensible. 

  • Use as Fertiliser 
  • Use as Compost
  • Store it for future use
  • Recycle it 
  • Sell it to local vendors or construction companies 

Owing to the presence of gypsum in drywall mud, it will be a decent choice to use drywall mud as a fertiliser. Gypsum can improve the fertility of the soil while also lowering the pH. 

Going for this option also implies that you are resorting to a rather natural source of fertilisers instead of commercially available fertilisers which harm the environment. 

Drywall mud can also be used for compost; however, it is important to process it first. More than that, it is important to be mindful that the composting of drywall mud will release harmful gases like sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. 

Therefore, it is perhaps better that you rely on competent authorities for this process. Since amateur handling of drywall mud may do more harm than good. 

Reusing drywall mud is also a good option. This way you will ensure that no harmful gases are added to the environment. This option will also be pocket friendly. 

The gypsum used in drywall mud can be reused for a whole lot of other purposes. Therefore, getting drywall mud is also a good option which will also make sure that no harmful gases are exposed to humans and the environment. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that drywall mud is biodegradable because it contains natural minerals, mainly gypsum. However, despite being biodegradable, drywall mud is unsafe for the environment. 

It was concluded that the biodegradation of drywall mud causes the release of harmful and toxic gases that raise a number of health issues and environmental problems, leading us astray from sustainability. 

Therefore, a number of green alternatives were discussed that could be opted to reduce the not-so-green impacts of drywall mud biodegradation. Among these were compositing, reuse, recycling and use as fertilisers. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is drywall mud biodegradable? 

How long does it take for drywall mud to biodegrade?

Since drywall mud is made from natural materials it takes a few months to several years to fully degrade, based on the available conditions. This degradation, however, does cause a release of harmful gases into the environment. 

Can you make drywall mud at home?

Yes, you can make drywall mud at home. For this, you need salt, flour and water. A detailed guide is available online

References

  • Nautiyal, H., Shree, V., Khurana, S., & Kumar, N. (2015). Recycling potential of building materials: A review. Environmental Implications of Recycling and Recycled Products, 31-50.
  • Deziel, Chris. Homemade Spackle. Retrieved from: https://www.hunker.com/13418438/homemade-spackle

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