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Wisconsin recycler helps Minnesota project go the extra mile

By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — A Wisconsin company is playing a key role in recycling efforts on the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital project.

To date, the project team has diverted more than 100 tons of hard-to-recycle gypsum from landfills as part of the $275 million project, which is on target for completion in December.

That’s no simple task, because drywall-recycling opportunities “aren’t readily available” in the Twin Cities, said Rachael Oelke, an assistant project manager with Kraus-Anderson, which is working closely with Rogers-based Veit Cos. on the recycling effort.

It’s especially challenging for a seven-story, 235,000-square-foot project such as Amplatz, project officials said. The new hospital is being constructed and connected to another building at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

“We knew we were going to have a lot of drywall,” Oelke said. “We said, ‘How we can deal with this in a better way?'”

Enter Russ Reger, vice president of roll-off operations for Veit Cos.

Reger contacted  Enviro-Services of Wisconsin, Menomonie, about grinding up the waste gypsum.

The Wisconsin company “was taking in clean drywall, grinding it up and providing it to farmers that were land-applying it” as a soil amendment, Reger said.

Gypsum-wallboard recycling is a challenge in Minnesota, in part because the state has strict rules for reusing it as a fertilizer. Minnesota requires the paper to be removed, which is costly.

In Wisconsin, Reger said, recyclers are allowed to grind up gypsum wallboard and use it as a soil amendment without removing the paper.

Typically, it may not be not be feasible to haul waste from Minnesota projects to Wisconsin for recycling. But Reger had some other work going on in the Menomonie area, so it wasn’t a stretch to use the Wisconsin recycler.

California has been reusing gypsum as a soil amendment for years, Reger said, but he said Amplatz is “among the first few local projects” to go this route.

It costs a little extra to haul the material to Wisconsin for recycling. But Oelke and other project team members took the idea to the owner, Fairview Health Services, which gave is wholehearted approval.

The recycling efforts will help the project team get green certification for the hospital through the Green Guide for Health Care initiative, a LEED-type program tailored to health care buildings.

Other green features in the hospital include eco-friendly materials, a vegetated roof, and a heat-reflective, energy-efficient roofing system, according to Kraus-Anderson.

Fairview has “always been clear they want a sustainably built hospital, and they have said that from the beginning,” Oelke said. “It’s clear it was important to them.”

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