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Can You Burn Drywall in a Fire Pit?

Technically, yes. You can burn pretty much everything in a fire pit as long as it's flammable.  However, that doesn't mean you should be incinerating drywall in your backyard fire pit. There are several reasons why burning drywall is not a good idea, both from an environmental and safety standpoint. Below, we look at the potential consequences of burning drywall in a fire pit and...

Can You Burn Drywall in a Fire Pit?

Technically, yes. You can burn pretty much everything in a fire pit as long as it's flammable. 

However, that doesn't mean you should be incinerating drywall in your backyard fire pit. There are several reasons why burning drywall is not a good idea, both from an environmental and safety standpoint.

Below, we look at the potential consequences of burning drywall in a fire pit and alternative solutions. 

Why You Shouldn't Burn Drywall in a Fire Pit

You need to know the backstory for this one. Drywall is made of gypsum. The thing about gypsum is that it doesn't burn well. Instead, it produces more smoke than fire. 

Maybe you could overlook the smoke, but that's not even the worst part. Burning gypsum also produces volatile organic compounds. If you're not familiar with VOCs, they are highly harmful chemicals that can cause respiratory issues and other health problems. 

Some examples of these compounds are: 

  • Propane
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hexanal 
  • Methyl chloride 
  • d-Limonene
  • Toluene

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) warns that exposure to high levels of VOCs can result in ''adverse health effects'' including cancer. With this in mind, we'd say that the at-home burning of drywall is just not worth the risk.

The problem becomes even worse when you're dealing with old drywall. Back in the day, there were no regulations about using asbestos in drywall. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is incredibly toxic when inhaled. 

Increased exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma. It's a rare cancer of the membranes in the abdomen and the chest. Asbestos exposure can also lead to ovarian, lung, and larynx cancer. 

Is It Legal to Burn Drywall in a Fire Pit?

A quick look at the hazards we've mentioned and the answer is pretty obvious. Burning drywall is not legal in most states and municipalities. However, there are exceptions, usually with some rules. 

You should always check with your local and state authorities before burning anything in a fire pit. 

In general, if you want to burn drywall legally, you'll have to satisfy the following requirements: 

  • Get a burn permit from your local authorities. 
  • The drywall should be unpainted and untreated (no scrap or construction debris). 
  • The drywall must be burned in an approved container, such as a waste incinerator. 

Remember that even if it's legal to burn drywall in your area, it's still not a good idea. The environmental impact doesn't go away with legality. 

Safer Alternatives to Burning Drywall

If you're thinking of burning drywall, stop for a minute. Maybe you could use these alternatives instead. 

Recycling

Remember how we said drywall is mostly gypsum? That means you can recycle it. The chemical name for gypsum is calcium sulfate dihydrate, and it's a base. 

So, you can use it to neutralize acidic soil. For instance, you may use a hammer to break up the drywall into small pieces and mix it in with your garden soil. 

If you'd rather a recycling facility take care of it, you have that option, too. Contact your local waste management company for more information on where and how to recycle drywall. We must warn you that most curbside recycling programs won't take drywall. You'll have to dig a little deeper. 

Composting 

Of all the things you can add to your compost bin, did you ever think drywall could be one of them? Well, it is. 

Just remove the paper backing from the drywall before you do so. Crush the drywall into small pieces and add it to your compost bin along with all your other organic waste. The calcium in gypsum acts as a soil conditioner and reduces soil erosion. 

The only downside to this approach is the smell. As gypsum decomposes, it leaves a distinct odor that many people find unpleasant. 

DIYing 

DIY enthusiasts always need bits and scraps for random projects. So, why not save your leftover drywall instead of tossing it away? 

The paper backing on drywall is also a good surface for paint. Perhaps you can use it as a canvas. 

Alternatively, you can use the drywall pieces as a base for creating an interesting texture on walls and furniture. 

We have to give you a heads-up here. Improperly stored drywall invites mold growth. Unless you want your shed to be a mold colony, we recommend storing drywall in a dry place with proper ventilation. 

Takeaway 

Whether it's leaves, drywall, random papers, or furniture shavings, most people's first thought is to toss them in the fire pit for quick disposal. But that's not always safe or even legal. 

It's better to check the alternatives first since they usually tend to be more environmentally friendly, safe, and convenient — not to forget legal. The same is true for drywall, too. Only resort to burning if you've exhausted all other options. 

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