Asphalt shingles are used in over three-quarters of roof installations due to their affordability and versatility. This popularity, combined with a relatively short service life, puts approximately 11 million tons of asphalt shingle materials in landfills after being torn off for replacement every year, despite the fact that 100 percent of these materials are recyclable. In addition to the problems related to mass and weight of asphalt shingles, the duration for decomposition can exceed 300 years. Seeing both a solution to a problem as well as a financial opportunity, recycling facilities are now being opened across the country.
The Recycling Process
The majority of asphalt shingles that end up going to recycling centers are the result of tear-offs as the old materials are removed before new shingles are installed. During the tear-off the old shingles, weighing an average of 2 tons for a standard sized home, are collected in dumpsters. After the tear-off has been completed, the materials are sorted into asphalt and non-asphalt collection areas. The sorting process can include high-powered magnets that are used to separate nails and a flotation phase that separates wood materials.
Uses for Recycled Asphalt Shingles
After the materials have been separated, the asphalt shingles are deposited into grinders that cut the shingles to specific sizes, depending on the intended end use. Asphalt shingle recycling facilities typically accept materials to be recycled at either no cost or for a minimal charge, which benefits roofing companies through the avoidance of paying landfill fees. The recycling centers make their money through the sales of the recycled materials for a variety of end uses, which include:
1) Road building materials – According to the EPA, incorporating recycled asphalt shingles at a ratio of 1/20 with standard paving materials results in reduced wear, water resistance, limited rutting, and decreased cracking due to issues related to heat and age-induced fatigue.
2) Patching materials – These materials offer solutions for commercial applications including patches for roads, parking lots and sidewalks. Residential uses include patching private roads, driveways and sidewalks. These uses are likely to expand as municipalities ease restrictions based on asbestos concerns, as evidence of low and safe levels continue to be documented in recycled asphalt shingle materials.
3) Being formed back into asphalt shingles – These recycled materials can be re-purposed back into asphalt shingles again and go back to a rooftop until they are torn off and recycled again.
Recycling asphalt shingles reduces stress on landfills, fortifies paving materials, creates jobs, and reduces oil demand by two barrels per recycled ton. If your near term roofing plans include the tear-off of an asphalt shingle roof, insist that the company that will be doing the job recycles the old materials.