Best practices in resource management applied throughout the product life cycle.
We take a comprehensive approach to resource management. Our Technology and Innovation Center team leads our efficiency processes using science and technology to optimize production.
Cutting-edge science, reduced manufacturing impacts
We are actively designing proprietary formulations and processes that reduce water consumption and heat energy demand without sacrificing value or product performance. This focus on efficiency innovation pays dividends for our customers, building owners and our environment.
Research and Development to improve product performance
Our in-house laboratories and innovation centers assess material performance against real-world testing conditions. Integral R&D has allowed us to introduce the groundbreaking line of PURPLE® products that withstand moisture, mold and mildew, as well as abuse and impact, for unsurpassed resilience and reliability.
The ultimate recyclable
Byproduct gypsum comes from a process used to remove sulfur dioxide from emissions at coal-fired power plants. After the power plant removes impurities from the coal combustion process, the remaining stack emissions are fed through a limestone slurry that removes sulfur dioxide. The byproduct of this process is calcium sulfate—the chemical name for gypsum rock.
Four of our plants produce wallboard exclusively with byproduct gypsum: Shippingport, Pennsylvania; Shoals, Indiana; Mount Holly, North Carolina; and Westwego, Louisiana.
Forty percent of our gypsum board production utilizes byproduct material. In our products, byproduct gypsum performs identically to mined gypsum. The flexibility to run both byproduct gypsum and natural gypsum rock at our plants gives us a strategic advantage in how we route the most efficient flow of raw material to meet our customers' needs.
Closed-loop manufacturing practices for face paper and gypsum
We have a long-term partnership with Weis grocery markets to directly receive waste cardboard as a raw material for our nearby Milton, Pennsylvania paper plant. We use this raw material to produce face paper for our gypsum board products. In 2017 we recycled approximately 27,500 tons of old corrugated cartons from Weis. This represents about a fifth of the total recycled material sourced by the plant.
Our plants reclaim gypsum for use in our processes to produce gypsum board that meets our strict quality standards. Since 2013, we have invested in technology to reclaim waste material at our plants. In select markets, we are piloting programs to take back clean construction waste from National Gypsum projects. Since January 2015, we reduced our gypsum reclaim inventory by over 150,000 tons through recycling and beneficial use activities.
Benchmarking and reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
The partner natural gas cogeneration plant, located at our Burlington, New Jersey facility, reduces annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 20,000 metric tons per year compared with coal-fired power sources. The project produces 3.4 megawatts of electricity to the grid and more than 30 million BTUs of thermal energy each hour to our kiln. This reduces our kiln burner combustion requirements by up to 50%. Cogeneration is just one of many energy recovery and efficiency strategies we employ at our production sites to reduce operating costs as we work to reduce our emissions.
Our greenhouse gas footprint by scope
We track our annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions according to the three “scopes” prescribed by the GHG Protocol. In line with our compliance reporting, we use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions factors to convert fuel consumption to GHG values.
In 2016, 73% of our total emissions resulted from the direct combustion of fuels, mainly natural gas (Scope 1). Twenty-four percent of our emissions are driven by purchased electricity (Scope 2) and just 3% result from shipping of materials within our network of plants (Scope 3).
Our GHG footprint helps inform our internal efficiency priorities. We focus on reducing heat and water from manufacturing processes, maximizing energy recovery and promoting electrical energy efficiency through equipment retrofits and planned replacements.
Our greenhouse gas emissions by facility type
Among our facilities, gypsum board plants are the largest GHG emitters (78% of total emissions), followed by paper plants (18%). Emissions from all other facilities (offices, interior finishing plants, cement board plants) are responsible for 4% of total GHGs.
Our emissions vary with our production output, which is driven by market demand. Relatedly, we reduced our GHG intensity (measured in metric ton carbon dioxide equivalents per million square feet) by 4% since 2014 as a result of key energy efficiency improvements. Overall, we are working to lower our emissions by investing in energy optimization systems, by reclaiming board material and by innovating on product chemistry to meet performance and quality requirements using less water and energy.
Our water stewardship
Water conservation is a companywide priority across all major facilities. Paper plants and gypsum board plants comprise 97% of our total water consumption. By volume of material produced, paper plants consume roughly 12 times the amount of water compared with gypsum board plants.
By 2017, we reduced the annual wastewater discharge rate at our Pryor, Oklahoma paper plant by the equivalent of 330 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Compared to 2012, we reduced wastewater discharge by 13%.