5280 Waste News
September 17, 2020

5280 and The Circular Economy

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5280 Waste dumpster sits in front of the Denver sky line

Have you ever wondered what we mean by "Innovative Solutions, Green Results?"

At 5280, we are constantly striving to find the best ways to defer materials from the landfill. One of the ways we do that is creating Gypsum blocks out of recycled drywall that is put into our dumpsters.

What is a Gypsum Block and what is it made of?

Well, to start we have to know a little background about Drywall. Drywall, or wall board, is gypsum encased in paper used in standard construction as a wall finish. Drywall makes up approximately 8-10% of the overall construction and demolition material stream with demolition or post-consumer drywall making up 90% of that amount. Post-consumer drywall cannot currently be recycled due to having things like paint, tape and adhesives on it.

In Colorado, post-consumer drywall is estimated to be more than 60,000 tons (2000 pounds in a ton) of material that has no option for recycling. That’s 60,000 tons going straight to landfill.

What if we could defer a portion of the drywall destined for the landfill? That was the million-dollar question.

5280 gets thousands of tons of drywall put into their dumpsters each year and most of it is not allowed to be recycled, so something had to be done.

That’s when our recycling department, led by Laurie Johnson, began the research into a market solution for this waste material. We designed a block to be used in the landscaping industry that is made from post-consumer drywall and other waste products. Not only does this create a second life for the drywall material and other waste materials, it also reduces the need for concrete products and the manufacturing of concrete is responsible for 8% of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere (

 5280 began experimenting with the best way to formulate these Gypsum blocks, using the drywall that had been placed in our dumpsters. 

After several trial and errors regarding binders and ingredients, we had finally turned the drywall into a block that could be used for a variety of purposes.

What are the real benefits of transforming old drywall into Gypsum Blocks?

The real benefits of this practice are focused within the environmental and economic sectors. 5280 handles hundreds of tons of waste per year and we get control of what happens to some of it.

Laurie Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of 5280 Recycling, says “We are doing a real disservice to the Denver and Colorado economy by not capturing material that can stay in a circular economy.” A circular economy is an economy in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them while in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life



Direct benefits:

  • Reduce the weight and volume of material going to landfill- a positive effect on waste diversion for the State of Colorado.
  • The reduction of hydrogen sulfide gas in the landfill, a harmful chemical that could be harmful to surrounding communities.


Indirect benefits:

  • The displacement of concrete products, which, according to the EPA is the third largest industrial source of pollution.




One of the main reasons 5280 is focused on creating end markets for the materials it hauls is to contribute to the growth of the circular economy in Colorado.

Direct economic benefits:

  • Creates jobs. 9 jobs to every 1 when material is recycled versus 3 jobs when material is sent to the landfill.
  • Creates sales revenues for local and state government when manufactured blocks are sold in the local market.
  • Reduces the impact on finite resources


Indirect economic benefits:

  • Creates competition in the manufacturing industry.
  • Creates federal tax revenue


As 5280 Waste Solutions continues to be a leader in the Colorado market for being a solutions company and not just a hauler, we are committed to investing in solutions that are good for our company, good for the environment, good for the economy and good for Colorado overall.

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