The last time Construction & Demolition Recycling (C&DR) published a list of shingles processors in 2015, conditions were ripe for the shingles recycling market.
When oil prices were booming, shingles provided a cost-effective alternative for the petroleum-based binder that makes up about 5 percent of asphalt pavement. But since then, oil prices have lowered and some states are still reluctant to allow it in their mixes. Many shingles processors have struggled to stay in business as a result.
The May/June 2017 C&DR article “Learning to adapt” detailed the struggles of adapting to new end markets due to declining demand of recycled asphalt shingles (RAS).
“The main factor is oil prices, specifically for asphalt cement,” David Stanczak, vice president of sales for Southwind RAS, Bartlett, Illinois, said at the time. “The price of asphalt cement has been cut in half in the last few years, and that lowers the value of recycled asphalt shingles as a whole. Many recyclers are in a situation where they’re stacking up their shingles because they can’t get rid of them when a few years ago, they couldn’t collect them because there was such a large need.”
In the 2015 article accompanying the Shingles Recyclers List, Brian Taylor, editor of Recycling Today, a sister publication to C&DR noted that from 2007 to 2014, the price of oil trended upward and the binder became costly. This caused asphalt producers to look elsewhere. He also cited the rising popularity of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification as a contributor to the use of a sustainable material such as RAS in pavement. Government support, he wrote, also plays a role in the ability to use this recycled material in roads.
In just two years, it appears those three factors are moving toward the opposite end of the spectrum, causing processors to either close completely or stop accepting and processing the material. According to C&DR’s research, 38 out of the 207 processors on the 2015 version of the list have either closed or stopped production.
SEARCHING FOR A REASON
Jim Cotugno, owner of Brice, Ohio-based Green Earth Recycling, had to shut down his operations due to a lack of state mandate and the drop in fuel prices.
In Colorado, Karen Seder, vice president of Asphalt Recovery Specialists, Colorado Springs says that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) required processors to stop taking in waste shingles effective September 2015.
“The reasoning was that asphalt shingles were not a recyclable product. CDPHE are giving only Asphalt Recovery Specialists Inc. [until] the end of 2017 to prove we have an end-use product,” she says. “Once we do that, they may allow us to intake again.”
Seder says a rumor that further explains the department’s decision was when an asphalt company failed to follow Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) guidelines for using shingles in roadways. The company’s mistake caused the road to fail. “Now CDOT will no longer allow it as a mix,” Seder says. “[But] when you have Texas, Missouri and Minnesota using it in their roadways, it is a recycled product.”
Seder developed a fire-resistant landscaping mulch and fire-resistant cobblestone bricks from recycled asphalt shingles. She says that the way to show CDPHE that Asphalt Recovery Specialists’ products works is by “getting it in the public eye.”
“Marion Acres in Montana and Colorado Springs had two forest fires a couple years ago,” Seder says. “If those homes would have used our landscaping mulch as mitigation around the house, the likelihood of them catching on fire is significantly lowered.”
Asphalt Recovery continues to process shingles with a four-year stock inventory at a rate of 700 tons per month. “We have half a million dollars of equipment and had to lay off eight employees and shut down most of the production to one person that’s producing our end use product,” Seder says.
A CLEANER WAY
Any company using a recycled material in its solution can say that contamination is a risk. For Seder and Asphalt Recovery, contamination was at a minimum because of Seder’s roofing experience, she says. Her company Aspen Roofing Inc.’s website, www.aspenroofs.com, says she and her husband Steven have owned the company since 1993, giving the couple plenty of time to figure out what does and does not belong in a clean pile of shingles. “We know what to look for on the shingles and we know what not to intake,” Seder says.
For other companies, such as RecycleGuy Inc. in Tipton, Indiana, contamination caused a stop in processing.
“So many of the roofers put more wood and plastics in it, and I don’t have anyone to sort through that,” Suzy Edwards, owner of RecycleGuy, says. “It’s been maybe five years since we’ve processed shingles. We’re at the end of our career, we’re 66 [years old] and we’re about out of this business altogether. There’s no use in opening a new market.”
Despite the challenges, in the May/June article, both Cotugno and Stanczak left their conversations saying there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I think, overall, the main recyclers will stay optimistic with the market,” Stanczak said. “They will continue to find new markets. With oil prices being low, there’s just a downturn. There is a cautious optimism because there have been people who have been impacted and because there are people out there who need to look for more markets or alternative markets.”
But with the 2017 Shingles Recyclers List shrinking from 207 in 2015 to 171, , it is clear the industry has more work to do for a full recovery.