By Rod Dickens
Recycling is a word used synonymously with just about every material under the sun. The country recycles everything from paper products, glass, and grass clippings to plastics and all sorts of metal. That's right, you name it and, as the saying goes, it's likely capable of being repurposed.
The asphalt industry has long been employing recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) in roads. More recently the use of recycled asphalt shingles (RAS), including factory rejects and tear-offs, has been gaining in popularity, riding in the wake of sustainable practices that reduce waste and conserve our natural resources.
Recycling shingles lessens demand for finite natural resources that comprise hot mix asphalt (HMA) and keeps them out of landfills. The latter makes the use of tear-offs even more attractive as they far outnumber their reject counterparts and make up a surprisingly high percentage of landfill content.
"In construction and demolition landfills, as high as 15% to 20% of the material comes from roofing wastes," explains Dan Krivit, industry consultant and Senior Project Engineer for Minnesota-based Foth Infrastructure & Environment. "Add to figure, the fact that more than 95% of tear-offs still end up in landfills, and that alone is incentive enough for environmentally aware individuals in both the private and public sector to consider using them."
There are economic considerations, as well, points out Rotochopper's Monte Hight, marketing manager for Minnesota-based Rotochopper.
"The cost savings can be significant for asphalt contractors who operate vertically integrated shingle recycling operations or buy RAS from another company. Obviously there are concerns, such as asbestos and deleterious materials such as wood and plastic. But these are very manageable issues. Tests performed by shingle recyclers have proven that asbestos has a very low occurrence rate in tear-offs. Furthermore, recyclers can use a number of strategies to ensure clean supplies of RAS that have acceptable levels of deleterious material."
As he points out, roofing companies also benefit from reduced landfill tipping fees, which are only going to increase over time. Krivit agrees "Some recyclers are offering lower tipping fees to roofing contractors that source separate tear-offs. Everyone from homeowner to waste handling companies can benefit from this drive toward clean shingle supplies."
Two immediate challenges
Indiana-based Recycling and Processing Equipment currently has four crews that grind shingles for asphalt producers.
"Already this year, we have ground 200,000 tons of both tear-offs and manufactured shingles, but that's only a very small percentage of the often-quoted 11 million tons that go into landfills annually," says company operations manager Jerry Lambert.
Recycling and Processing Equipment started grinding shingles for an asphalt paving contractor in the early 1990s, long before the green movement and oil costs became drivers, he explains. Prior to that the company actually ground shingles for a landfill, to keep down dust and improve the appearance of its roads.
"The biggest challenge our customers face is guiding roofing contractors toward keeping the shingles clean," Lambert emphasizes. "When roofing contractors keep metal, wood, and other debris from the shingles, they usually have a good flow of product to use. For any asphalt contractors looking to use tear-offs, this has to be one of the biggest hurdles."
The other hurdle for the industry in general is getting more states to write permissive specs. Currently, 11 states allow the use of both tear-offs and factory rejects, and another five allow manufacturers' rejects only.
"Permissive specs allow contractors to use tear-offs as long as they meet certain testing and quality control standards," explains Krivit. He notes that many non-state roads are at least partially state funded, which seriously limits the use of tear-offs in 39 states.