Choose Asphalt Shingles First; It Matters in the End

Submitted by Sue Burkett, member of the Communication, Marketing and Education Committee for ARMA

When faced with a steep-slope re-roofing opportunity, most homeowners and building owners are, of course, concerned about the durability, performance and value of their new roof. Many choose asphalt roofing materials for their ability to satisfy these performance and budgetary factors. For many, especially homeowners, the aesthetic appeal of the roof is also a major factor.  Again, asphalt shingle roofing excels.  Asphalt shingles, due to the wide variety of colors and shapes available, provide a vast number of options to help a home blend in or stand out in a neighborhood. All of these considerations speak to the advantages of using asphalt shingles.  What may be overlooked as a contributing factor in their popularity is that they are recyclable.  Asphalt shingle waste can be diverted from the landfill and reused in other applications. 

The Problem with Landfills

It is estimated that over 11 million tons of asphalt shingle scrap from tear-offs and manufacturing are produced annually in the United States, and can contribute up to 10 percent of construction and demolition debris in our landfills1.  With continuing pressure to reduce the size of landfills and to regulate the types of waste streams that go into them, recycling shingles is a relatively easy way to reduce a portion of construction waste.  

The Greening of our Roadways

The fact that shingles are recyclable should give homeowners and building owners great satisfaction, especially since the predominant re-use application is for paving projects. This can include public roads, private driveways and commercial parking lots. Considering there are 3.9 million miles of public roads in the U.S.1, and millions of driveways and parking lots, there is huge opportunity for utilizing recycled shingles in a tangible (and drive-able) way.  According to the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), 1.96 million tons of reclaimed asphalt shingles (RAS) were used in new asphalt pavement mixes in the U.S. in 2014. Reusing the asphalt cement in reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) and RAS saved about $2.8 billion in 2013 compared to the use of virgin materials.2 Because asphalt is a product of oil refining, recycled material can be utilized in lieu of new refined oil.  Therefore, it helps to reduce our dependence on oil and positively contributes to the environment and the economy.  

The shingle recycling trend is catching on. The 2014 NAPA Asphalt Pavement Industry Survey on Recycled Material and Warm-Mix Asphalt Usage indicates that the use of both manufacturing waste and post-consumer shingles in asphalt mixtures increased to an all-time high of nearly 2 million tons in 2014, almost a 25 percent increase from 2013 (1.6 million tons). Assuming a conservative asphalt content of 20 percent for the RAS that is used to replace virgin asphalt, this represents 400,000 tons (2.2 million barrels) of virgin asphalt preserved.2

Industry Support

Shingle recycling is available in most major markets in the United States and in some locations in Canada, and new sites continue to open. To see if your area offers shingle recycling, you can check online at www.earth911.com and www.shinglerecycling.org.

Many asphalt shingle manufacturers provide recycling education and marketing programs to help roofing contractors offer an environmentally friendly roofing solution in their selling efforts, because consumers do care.  In a 2015 Homeowner Roofing Survey conducted by Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) member Owens Corning, 95 percent of homeowners said that, all other things being equal, they would select a contractor that recycles shingles over one who does not. It’s a winning prospect for all parties. To find a list of roofing contractors who pledge to recycle shingles, check shingle manufacturers’ websites.

ARMA members participate in and support the advancement of shingle recycling within the industry.  ARMA’s Roofing Recycling Task Force looks for other applications of recycled shingle content. As the voice of asphalt roofing manufacturers, ARMA also works closely with NAPA and the Asphalt Institute (AI) to expand the use of RAS in paving. Despite the astounding number of roads in the U.S., not all state or local Departments of Transportation accept RAS for paving applications.  ARMA and NAPA work together to address conversion opportunities or issues.

The Shingle Recycling Process 

 If shingle recycling is available in your area, it is relatively easy for a roofing contractor to recycle shingle tear-off.  It isn’t really different than a typical re-roofing job.  Two dumpsters or receptacles  may be required—one for shingle debris  and one for other construction debris.  One  dumpster may be used where debris is  layered for easy separation, or some recycling  centers will separate all of it—your contractor  should be familiar with the local  requirements. Contractors who recycle shingle  tear-off likely will also recycle wood and metal  construction debris. Usually, nails or staples in  the shingle debris do not need to be  removed, because the recycler will use large  magnets to pull them out in the shingle regrind process.  Once the tear-off process is complete, the shingle dumpster will be taken to a recycling center, which can be more centrally located than the local landfill, further aiding the environment by requiring less transportation and fuel. Shingles are loaded into grinding equipment and chipped into pieces approximately 3/8inches in size. From there, the RAS can be used in asphalt paving mix. 

Sustainable End-of-Life for Asphalt Shingles 

The durability, reliability and affordability of asphalt shingles make them a popular choice. They are easy to install and look beautiful on a variety of building and home styles.  The fact that the end-of-life for asphalt shingles can also help to provide an economic and environmental benefit is just another important advantage of choosing asphalt shingles for your roofing project. 

 

References

1 Northeast Recycling Council (NERC); Asphalt Shingles Manufacturing & Waste Management in the Northeast Fact Sheet; March 2012.

U.S. Department of the Interior; U.S. Geological Survey National Map Recycling Council.

3  National Asphalt Paving Association; Asphalt Pavement Industry Survey on Recycled Materials and Warm-Mix Asphalt Usage; 2014, 5th Annual Survey.