A. S. Atkins, L. Zhang, H. Yu and B. P Naylor
Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Technology, Staffordshire University
Keywords: Auditing system, CAD, Environmental Recycling, Knowledge Hub, Plasterboard, RFID Technology.
Abstract: The traditional disposal of waste in landfill sites is causing serious environmental concerns due to the
amount of hectares consumed by this method and the waste of resources which results from not being
proactive in effective recycling. The construction industry, for example, contributes approximately 108mt of
the total 335mt of waste annually produced in the United Kingdom of which 50-80% could be reusable or
recyclable. Construction waste is composed of at least 1mt of plasterboard waste which has resulted in
serious problems because of the emission of hydrogen sulphide gas which is odorous and causes a health
hazard to people living near disposal sites. Consequently, this material can only be disposed of in licensed
and special designed sites. Plasterboard can be recycled and some countries, for example Japan, Canada,
United States and, recently, the United Kingdom, are using this technology to obviate the issue of landfill.
This paper outlines knowledge hub using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) linked to Computer Aided
Design (CAD) systems for providing auditing and monitoring systems for environmental recycling and/or
licensed disposal of plasterboard waste.
The disposal of waste has become a sensitive topic
in recent years in terms of environment, health and
economic cost. There are a number of government
initiatives and environmental pressure groups
seeking environmental, socially responsible, and
economical means of future waste disposal.
In general, waste is a combination of many types
of material, and most of them are harmful and
polluting. Waste takes many years to break down,
and can pollute water courses and the land even
when it is carefully disposed of (McDougall and
Waste production is now a serious issue, and the
UK is currently producing around 335mt of waste
annually, including 50mt of industrial waste, 25mt
of commercial waste and 72mt of demolition
waste(ARIC and DEFRA, 2007; DEFRA, 2006b).
Demolition waste and construction waste are
becoming an increasing problem particularly due to
the re-development of urban areas. This requires
appropriate attention in terms of recycling rather
than traditional landfill disposal, which results in
long term environmental problems. Traditional
regeneration of urban areas results in harmful
material from demolition building being mixed in
with general waste. During its decomposition in
landfill sites, building waste such as plasterboard
can break down with organic waste and generate
Hydrogen Sulphide gas (H
S) which is odorous and
dangerous to health in high concentration (Granholm
and Chester, 2007).
The disposal of hazardous waste such as
plasterboard needs an auditing system to track and
visually record the correct disposal of the material in
licensed sites and/or its recycling in an
environmentally appropriate way. The advent of
computer and wireless technology can provide a
solution by using a combination of RFID technology
and wireless imagery to integrate data into a
knowledge hub for auditing and procedural
This paper explains and discusses the necessity
of an auditing system for demolition and
S. Atkins A., Zhang L., Yu H. and P Naylor B. (2008).
In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - SAIC, pages 190-195
DOI: 10.5220/0001723601900195
construction waste with particular reference to
plasterboard waste. A case study concerning
tracking systems that can be used for domestic waste
will be discussed in relation to a proposed integrated
auditing system concerning the environmental
recycling and disposal of plasterboard waste.
The total amount of waste produced in the UK in
2004 was around 335mt annually(DEFRA,2006a).
Figure 1 shows that the largest amount of waste is
from the construction and demolition sector which
contributes 106.1mt, and accounts for 32% of the
total UK waste(DEFRA,2006a). The information on
construction and demolition waste also includes
excavated soil, miscellaneous materials and hard
materials, such as brick, concrete and road
infrastructure (DEFRA,2006a).
The construction and demolition (C&D) waste
sector represents a large percentage of the waste
created (32%), and is undoubtedly a significant
aspect of the waste disposal issues in the UK. In
England, there are over 90 million tonnes of
construction and demolition waste (total for UK is
107.5 mt) generated (DEFRA,2006a). The amount
of landfill from the construction and demolition
sector is consequently causing environmental issues
particularly if it contains harmful materials. The
challenge is to ensure that in the future a much
higher percentage of construction and demolition
waste is either recycled and/or disposed of in a safe
Figure 1: Estimated Total Annual Waste by Sector in the
UK 2004 (DEFRA,2006a) (modified by authors).
3.1 Current Landfill in UK
Plasterboard is a popular material that is usually
used in the interior finishing of buildings, because it
is easy to use, relatively cheap, and provides a high
quality finish. It is widely used in industrial
construction, typically for house building in the
construction of room partitions and ceilings etc.
In the UK, the current disposal method of
plasterboard waste is usually in landfill sites.
Information from DEFRA in 2007 indicates that
more than 1mt of plasterboard from the construction
and demolition sector is being sent to landfill with
only 70,000 tonnes being recycled. It is anticipated
that over next 15 years the volume of plasterboard
waste will increase because of expansion in its use
and the rise in construction projects (DEFRA,2007).
Consequently, plasterboard waste is becoming a
serious concern because of the hazards in disposing
of this type of material in traditional landfill sites.
Plasterboard should be recycled on a much larger
scale than the present 7% to obviate the problem of
landfill disposal.
Currently, landfill facilities that only accept non-
biodegradable waste (gypsum materials should be
disposed in landfill sites which do not accept
biodegradable wastes to avoid the emission of
hydrogen sulphide when mixed with organic waste)
are limited in England and Wales compared to the
total number of waste disposal facilities. In England,
there are only 316 landfill sites (Wales has 16 sites)
which accept non-biodegradable waste out of a total
of 1055 landfill sites in England (DEFRA,2006c).
Consequently, recycling and/or disposal of
plasterboard in a licensed landfill site requires an
auditing and tracking system to provide evidence for
future verification.
3.2 Problem for Landfill Plasterboard
Plasterboards are made from fibre materials and
gypsum. The gypsum (CaSO
O) is usually in the
middle layer of the plasterboard and sandwiched
together by two pieces of fibre material such as
paper or cloth. Plasterboard waste contains a high
proportion of gypsum and once placed in a landfill
site with biodegradable organic waste, will
decompose to produce hydrogen sulphide gas
S) (Marvin,2000). This gas is noxious and
extremely malodorous at low concentration levels,
and can be toxic at higher levels resulting in
pollution of the environment and causing a health
and safety issue (Marvin,2000).
In July 2005, The Landfill Regulations of UK
was amended and now requires that gypsum or other
high sulphate-bearing materials should be disposed
of in landfill sites which do not accept biodegradable
waste, in order to avoid the emission of hydrogen
sulphide (Bradshaw,2005). Plasterboard can now
only be disposed of in specially designed landfill
sites which do not accept normal waste, such as
household, organic, and other types of waste which
can be broken down by living organisms. The
purpose of this regulation was to try and avoid the
plasterboard emitting harmful gas when associated
with organic waste, but waste buried in the ground
can still be problematic. In 2006 WRAP, the UK
DEFRA agency launched a project on the recycling
of gypsum to find alternatives to landfill disposal.
(Recycling Today, 2006).
3.3 Overview of Plasterboard
Recycling Methods
The recycling of plasterboard waste will reduce the
amount of plasterboard entering the waste system to
avoid damaging the environment. There are several
techniques for recycling plasterboard, but in general,
the main method is crushing to release the gypsum
and combining with the plasterboard production
cycle to make a new product(Hamm et al.,2007).
4.1 Recycling Plasterboard Case
Plasterboard recycling has been used in a number of
countries such as Japan and Canada to make new
products. The difficulty is not the method of
recycling, but how to track and logistically supply
the processing plants to ensure there is sufficient
waste supply delivered on time and dramatically
reduce the amount of tonnage going to landfill
which is currently more than 93% in the UK.
A Japanese company Yoshino Gypsum Ltd is
using recycled plasterboard waste to make new
plasterboard, which they refer to as “Tiger Board”.
Their plasterboard is made from a mixture of raw
gypsum from mining, and a by-product from
generating power plants and waste plasterboard
operations which is collected from construction or
demolition sites (,2007). The
waste plasterboard is crushed twice to produce a
gypsum powder and during the process any paper
material is removed from the gypsum and the
powder is mixed with raw materials. However, only
5% of the gypsum material is from plasterboard
waste and thus the amount of plasterboard actually
recycled is limited.
4.2 Waste Tracking Case Review
Tracking systems are not a new concept, but their
application to construction and demolition waste is
novel, especially for plasterboard waste. Some case
studies of tracking confidential or domestic wastes
are outlined as follows:
A Canadian company called NJE Consulting
provides an RFID solution for the secure destruction
of confidential paper records. They use a tracking
and auditing system for auditing confidential waste,
such as the paper waste from some government
departments, and provide evidence to prove that the
confidential material is promptly and completely
destroyed. Figure 2 outlines the process. Firstly, the
containers are all RFID-tagged, and the staffs record
each transfer using a hand-held RFID data-collecting
device. Once this confidential waste arrives at the
destroying facility, it is promptly destroyed, and the
data from the RFID data-collection device is
securely downloaded to a central server over an
encrypted network (NJE,2007). Customers then can
check the status of their confidential waste.
Figure 2: RFID-based Information to Automatically
Generate Customer Invoices and Certificates of
ICEIS 2008 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
An outline and description of a proposed solution
using a knowledge technology system (knowledge
hub) to audit and track the plasterboard waste from
its source to recycling and/ or disposal location is
The aim of the proposal can be viewed from 3
aspects: firstly, the auditing of plasterboard waste
removed from the construction site during
refurbishment and/or demolition of the building
(including off-cut plasterboard waste); secondly the
monitoring of plasterboard supplies during
construction and refurbishment; and finally the
auditing and tracking facilities for predicting the
amount of plasterboard waste and the logistics of
inward and outward movement.
Figure 3: The Outward Material Handling System for
Waste Plasterboard.
Figure 3 shows that each plasterboard waste
container (skip or compactor skip) is marked with a
unique ID and RFID tag in the demolition or
construction site. The ID relates the information of
the waste container, such as the total load, unloaded
weight, location etc. This information is located in
the central information server, and can be checked or
updated by a hand-held RFID device. The operator
can input real time information about the waste as
appropriate; this system could also be used for other
kinds of waste such as asbestos, timber and glass etc.
When the waste containers are fully loaded, they are
transported through a special gate to the recycling
company or appropriate licensed landfill site. The
gate is equipped with RFID sensors and digital
imagery to create records which could be
supplemented with mobile imagery and logging
devices on site. The record is uploaded to the central
information server and shows the logistics of the
containers and the appropriate tonnages of
plasterboard waste being transported or delivered to
recycling and/or landfill sites (Atkins et al. 2003;
Zheng et al. 2006; Zheng et al. 2007).
Figure 4: Inward Material Handling System.
Figure 4 shows the inward logistics of the
proposal for new plasterboard material stacks which
are marked with a unique ID and RFID tag at the
construction site or before being transported. The
construction site is equipped with imaging
equipment (static picture and/or video) and an RFID
sensor connected to a central server (Information
Hub) which contains the material information. The
sensor will trigger the imaging equipment to start
recording this information, which is then sent to the
central server with date, time, and ID number. These
records can be checked to show how much
plasterboard is delivered to the site. Figure 4 also
shows that as plasterboard is used in a construction
the RFID tags are then removed from the stack, to
ensure that the plasterboard is not recorded again.
Consequently, after building is completed, the
information contained in the central server could
show how much plasterboard was used in the
buildings, determine the wastage, and assist in
auditing disposal and identifying and rectifying
inefficiency through the waste produced. This
information can be used in the refurbishment and
demolition of buildings in the future.
Using Computer Aided Design (CAD), tools
such as AutoCAD Architecture 2008 can be used to
estimate plasterboard waste by integrating the
information into a repository with digital imagery
(,2007). Figure 5 shows that after the
existing building has been surveyed, the building
plan can then be drawn in AutoCAD Architecture
2008. AutoCAD Architecture 2008 allows the user
to draw the plan in a 2D environment but at the same
time automatically generates 3D building
components. The user can determine the
construction of the build as identified in the survey
and apply the information to the relevant wall and
ceiling type of the waste material that needs to be
disposed. This allows 'Tags' to be attached to the
walls that can automatically generate the area of
specified materials, i.e. plasterboard.
Figure 5: Surveying the Target Building and Indicating
Plasterboard Materials.
The final stage is to calculate the volume of
plasterboard used in the buildings. Figure 6 shows
that AutoCAD can be used to estimate and identify
the individual rooms together with the area of
material used and generate a schedule of the waste
plasterboard information. This schedule can then be
exported into a repository and using spreadsheet
applications can be programmed to generate the total
volume of the material from different aspects of the
building construction. This information can be used
to determine the volume and tonnage of plasterboard
waste (or of other materials as appropriate for
recycling) that will be generated during the
refurbishment and/ or demolition. This information
can then be imputed to the central server and
compared to the information from the RFID sensor
to provide specifications of the material to be
disposed of, and assist in the logistics of supplying
recycling or disposal sites.
Figure 6: Predicting the Correct Volume and Tonnage of
Plasterboard in Advance.
Ensuring that the plasterboard waste goes to the
correct destination requires the co-operation of
construction firms and recycling and waste disposal
companies (recycling company or landfill site). At
the destination sites, sensors and imagery (cameras)
need to be used to record the transport information
in real time. The function and mechanism of the
sensor and the imagery would be similar to those
used at the construction sites, but on a smaller scale
and using fixed and mobile devices to give more
mobility for easier operations.
This system can be used to support construction
companies in determining the amount of
plasterboard waste produced in refurbishment or
demolition as well as appropriate construction
quantities to obviate unnecessary waste (Atkins et
al.,1986; Atkins et al.,1987). The system can be used
to provide the verification and tracking of waste
disposal required for auditing and complying with
government and/or public scrutiny. This proposed
system can also be used within recycling companies,
to help them maintain adequate supplies and
coordinate their inbound logistics of deliveries using
simulation to improve their efficiency and process
plant control for more efficient environmental
solutions to hazardous waste as well as other
construction material such as wood and glass etc
(Atkins et al.,1996; Atkins et al.,1985).
This paper reviews current waste production and the
increasing trend of certain waste categories in the
UK, particularly construction and demolition waste
which accounts for 335mt per annum, and
noticeably increased between 1998 and 2005. In
particular, plasterboard waste is causing a significant
problem for landfill sites as it has a high gypsum
content, which can result in the emission of
hydrogen sulphide (H
S) gas when it decomposes
with organic waste. Currently, there are two ways to
avoid this hazardous emission: either dispose of the
plasterboard in special landfill sites which only
accept non-biodegradable wastes, and/or recycle the
plasterboard waste which would be the preferred
environmental solution. However, the amount of
plasterboard waste currently recycled is extremely
low: only 70,000 tonnes which is about 7% of the
total UK waste. Recent information from DEFRA
(SweeneyII,2005), anticipates that plasterboard
waste will continue to increase in the next 15 years.
In the plasterboard application outlined in this paper,
an auditing and tracking system is necessary to solve
ICEIS 2008 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
and provide verification and logistic support to this
environmental problem (AK and Atkins,2007). This
system is being designed to use RFID technology
and digital imagery to integrate records including
construction material, location, volumes and weight,
container movement and delivery tracking
inventories and scheduling etc. It will be integrated
into a knowledge hub that can be used to predict the
scheduled logistics of plasterboard waste to
recycling plants using simulation techniques to
improve processing operations. This system can
ensure that containers of plasterboard waste go to
the correct destination and provide verifiable
evidence of each stage of the operation for auditing
purposes and independent scrutiny. This can also be
used by waste disposal or recycling companies to
provide improved logistical support to the recycling
of other materials such as wood and glass to improve
recycling capability.
The authors would like to thank Dr. Emma Price for the
technical support in producing this paper.
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