Asphalt roofing shingles have a dominant market share in the single-family home construction market throughout much of the United States, causing them to be manufactured in large volumes.
The replacement of existing roofs on older homes and the construction of new homes means that on average some 25 billion square feet of asphalt shingles are sold each year in the U.S.
While that is a large amount, it has not necessarily meant that building momentum for asphalt shingle recycling in the U.S. has been an easy task. In the past several years, however, a combination of persistence by its advocates, the backing of shingle manufacturers seeking sustainability progress, the willingness of asphalt paving contractors to use shingles as a feedstock and the prior spike in oil prices all helped to move shingle recycling closer to a standard practice.
Promotion and cooperation
The Construction and Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA), Milwaukee, has been holding Shingle Recycling Forum events throughout the 21st century, with the most recent forum having taken place near Chicago Oct. 29-30, 2015.
The event and the CDRA-created www.ShingleRecycling.org website have been key components of the effort by recycling advocates to increase the awareness and knowledge of shingle recycling and to help connect the necessary links in the chain to get shingle scrap into hot-mix asphalt pavement plants or into other end use applications.
The CDRA’s allies in producing the events and the website include shingle manufacturers, state departments of transportation (DOTs), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), processing equipment manufacturers and trade associations connected to the roofing and roadbuilding sectors.
A “Recycling Tear-Off Shingles Best Practices Guide,” published by the CDRA in 2007, is an 80-page document, designed to “help identify key business planning, recycling operations, marketing and compliance recommendations.”
The guide’s division into focuses on scrap supply, processing best practices and end uses helps portray a multilink recycling chain that has required the participation of: roofing manufacturers and contractors; hauling firms; solid waste regulators; grinding equipment makers; state DOTs; asphalt pavement plant operators; and road building contractors.
It only takes a lack of cooperation from one link in that chain to stymie the progress of shingle recycling, and yet the amount of recycling taking place (judged by the number of processors on the accompanying list) has grown significantly this decade.
In addition to the hard work of advocates, several other factors have helped provide a boost to shingle recycling.
Scoring points, saving money
The corporate sustainability movement this century has exerted considerable influence on energy use, land stewardship, product design and support for recycling.
The impressive growth of the United States Green Building Council (USBGC), Washington, and the rapid acceptance of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program has meant the construction industry has been foremost among those sectors seeking sustainability progress.
Shingle maker GAF, Parsippany, New Jersey, sponsors the “Find a Recycler” on the ShingleRecycling.org website. The sustainability blog section of GAF’s website (http://blog.gaf.com/category/sustainability) includes several posts and links pertaining to shingle recycling.
The commitment of shingle manufacturers and roofing industry trade associations to recycling has provided considerable assistance to the landfill diversion and collection link of the recycling chain.
The most common end users of recycled shingles—asphalt pavement producers and paving contractors—also have shown greater interest in part to score sustainability points; but, several years ago a critical dollars-and-cents issue also was helping to pique their interest.
While asphalt pavement consists of 95 percent aggregate by volume, the binder used is a byproduct of the petroleum refining process. As the price of oil trended toward new highs from 2007 through 2014, this binder became more costly.
Although using processed shingle scrap in an asphalt mix represents a risk (in the form of experimentation), asphalt plant operators were increasingly intrigued by using an aggregate material that also included residual binder material as an ingredient.
The dollars-and-cents logic of the practice helped make a larger share of asphalt producers and road contractors more willing to conduct experiments and ultimately adopt the use of shingle scrap as a viable, ongoing alternative.
The establishment of shingle scrap as a pavement ingredient has by no means been linear, as demonstrated by the disappearance of some recyclers who were on earlier lists from the 2015 version. Profit margins for operators can be thin, and an abrupt change in one link of the supply-hauling-processing-end use chain can be enough to fold up an operation. However, positive signals continue to transmit in favor of shingle recycling.
The roster of shingle recyclers spans from coast to coast in the U.S., although pockets of greater activity in certain states are evident.
Shingle scrap, like any other kind of scrap, is generated in higher volumes in heavily populated areas (although shingle recycling activity also is occurring in South Dakota and Wyoming).
The states with the most listed shingle recyclers are all larger in population, although not every highly populated state exhibits the same amount of activity.
Government support can make a difference, both in the form of grants for processing equipment and the willingness of state DOTs to write specifications that include the use of recycled asphalt shingle (RAS) pavement.
The outsized number of listings for Illinois and Wisconsin can be partially attributable to the role of EPA Region 5, based in Chicago, as an advocate for shingle recycling and the use of RAS pavement. The EPA Region 5 office has been an ongoing sponsor of the Shingle Recycling Forum and the ShingleRecycling.org website, and has helped arrange tests and pilot programs to encourage RAS production.
The 25 districts of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) also have served as “laboratories” for recycling innovation, including the use of RAS pavement. TxDOT has had a specification for the use of RAS since at least 2004, and the number of shingle recyclers in the Lone Star State corresponds to this acceptance.
Shingle recyclers and their advocates are unlikely to breathe a sigh of relief with the feeling that they have “made it” anytime soon. At the same time, there appears to be stronger links in the shingle recycling chain now than at any previous time.
The author is an editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did we miss you?
If you operate an asphalt shingle recycling facility and were not on our list, we want to hear from you. Contact Construction & Demolition Recycling Editor Kristin Smith at email@example.com and we will be sure to update our records and the online version of the list.