Ups and downs

Features - Commodity Focus // Shingles

State regulations are causing a Pennsylvania shingle recycler to look outside the box for new end markets.

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May 21, 2018
Hilary Crisan

Whether they come from demolition sites and roofing projects or from a toss-away pile at a manufacturing facility, shingles have a variety of second uses. Asphalt shingles can be included in hot mix asphalt, cold patch, used as dust control on rural roads or as an aggregate road base and fuel, but several circumstances can get in the way of shingle recycling success.

According to Shinglerecycling.org, a website run by the Milwaukee-based Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA), the cost of virgin asphalt and aggregates and the cost of petroleum are economic factors that help determine the viability of shingle recycling. When these prices are high, the demand for recycled shingles increases. Conversely, when costs of these materials are low, the demand for shingles decreases.

Another factor that affects the viability of shingle recycling is regulation, which varies from state to state. Regulations may restrict what types of shingles can be used in the state Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) hot mix asphalt or dictate what types of permits are necessary to open a processing facility. Currently, it seems that state regulations are hindering the shingle market.

By the book

There is a permitting mechanism known as a general permit for authorizing the processing and reuse of shingles in Pennsylvania, Shinglerecycling.org says. The state allows preconsumer shingle scrap—shingles that may have been rejected from the manufacturing line or stockpiled in a warehouse before being sold—to be used in hot mix asphalt production. However, the state does not allow the use of tear-off shingle scrap from roofing projects or demolition sites. Because of this, companies like Crushcrete, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, have stopped accepting shingles to recycle.

“The shingles recycling industry is hard,” Tony Medei, general manager of Crushcrete, says. “At some point, we were almost trying to give the material away. We have customers that use it, but the volume they use is just nowhere near the volume that we can take in. The need for a dumping facility other than a landfill is huge, but without the state’s backing of using [this material], the end market just isn’t there right now in Pennsylvania.”

Crushcrete is a family-owned and -operated business that started in 1998 as a concrete recycling center. Medei says it is Pennsylvania’s first Department of Environmental Protection-approved tear-off shingle recycling center. The company processes concrete, stone and masonry debris into aggregate and pre- and postconsumer asphalt shingles.

“We are proud to be doing our part in contributing to a greener environment and conserving resources for the future, and we are committed to keeping landfills clean,” Medei says.

According to Medei, Crushcrete started to explore shingle recycling in 2007 after both seeing its potential market and experiencing a slowed concrete recycling business in 2008. The company submitted its permit to take in shingles in late 2007 and received the permit and began processing shingles in 2009.

“We started researching it [in 2007] and saw there was no one in our area that was actively doing it,” Medei says.

The daily grind

Crushcrete closely inspects its shingle loads before processing. Every load is inspected for contamination, whether it’s asbestos or unrecyclable material.

“Anything with an excessive amount of trash or nonrecyclable debris is immediately rejected and anything that raises the slightest flag of asbestos-containing material is rejected,” he says.

Every 200 tons coming into the facility are sampled and tested for asbestos, and Medei says so far there have been no positive results. Anyone bringing in postconsumer shingles fills out a specification sheet that includes when the roof was built and certifies that there is no nonrecyclable material in the load. Since any roof that was built after 1975 is not as likely to contain asbestos, it makes the initial testing easier. The loads are tipped onto a concrete floor and inspected by Crushcrete crews. The shingles then go into two separate piles where they are staged until clear test results are received. The pile of cleared shingles is fed into the system using an excavator.

The material is hand sorted and placed in a staging area where it is dumped into a RG1 grinder from Rotochopper, St. Martin, Minnesota. The Rotochopper grinds the shingles and feeds the material directly into a customized trommel from McCloskey International, Keene, Ontario. The trommel screens the material into its ¼-inch-minus product. Any material above the ¼-inch mark is returned to the same pile the picked material is returned to and sent back through the Rotochopper.

Any nails from postconsumer shingles are separated out in the Rotochopper. Medei says Crushcrete collects about 10 tons of nails for every 1,000 tons of shingles. The nails are shipped to a scrapyard for recycling.

The facility can process an average of 500 tons of material per day. Medei says because of Crushcrete’s location, the facility processes more postconsumer shingles than the preconsumer variety.

An alternate route

Medei says the shingles Crushcrete processes are primarily used in hot mix asphalt, but because of the declining demand in that market, the company is also looking into converting the shingles into alternative fuel for cement kilns.

“We’re meeting with several people in the industry about possibly using RAS (recycled asphalt shingles) as a fuel source in cement kilns, which is being done elsewhere in the U.S. and overseas,” he says. “We’re getting companies on board with using it here for fuel for heating and energy units used in the cement-making process.”

Medei says there are five major producers within 100 miles of Crushcrete, creating an opportunity to explore the alternative fuel market.

While the company is rallying for change from the DOT, Medei says multiple “political roadblocks” are getting in the way. “Unfortunately, DOT tells us we need to tell people to go to the landfill with [shingles],” he says.

Although some customers outside of the hot mix asphalt market are still taking the recycled shingles from Crushcrete, the DOT specification is hindering the amount leaving the facility.

Crushcrete has shipped its material out of state by rail in the past, but the price of rail transportation has spiked over the years because of a decrease in oil transportation. “They replaced that lost revenue by raising everybody else’s prices,” Medei says. “That made the savings our customers were getting moot because it was not effective to use it.”

Finding the light

Despite all the obstacles, Medei says a turnaround in the hot mix asphalt market is possible if the asphalt cement index increases. “We have verbal commitments from several customers, but producers that use our RAS see it as more beneficial when the price index is between $550 to $600 per ton,” he says. Currently, Medei says discussions with producers lead him to believe the current index in Pennsylvania is around $450 per ton.

The increase in the price index and DOT approval can help the shingles market in Pennsylvania, according to Medei. He says 90 percent of producers currently make state-approved mixes, so producers currently aren't using tear-offs in their product.

Local producers are looking into using recycled shingles in asphalt mixes for larger parking lots and other similar projects, but “not at the speed that any of us hope for,” Medei says.

“If that number comes around a little more and the virgin asphalt cement costs a little more, we’ll see some movement in our local area,” he says. “If we can get the state on board with it, we would have customers and it’d be used in our area significantly.”

The author is the assistant editor for Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be contacted at hcrisan@gie.net.