Our society is continuously evolving, so we must also live sustainably. However, we overlook one aspect of our decisions: recycling. But why are we bound to do so?
In the last decade, the share of recycling materials in the global market increased from 22% to 35%. With this development, the recycling industry has seen a series of changes. Recycling companies have recognized the fact that they have a responsibility to encourage their customers to recycle. With the globalization of the recycling market, the recycling process has become more complex.
It’s safe to assume that if someone asks you what is the most recycled material in the United States, your response would be plastic, paper, aluminum, or glass. However, the most recycled material in the United States is just beneath our feet: asphalt!
Asphalt – the world’s most recycled material – may not look attractive when it’s used on roadways and parking lots. It is more durable than other natural sources and is a vital component of modern construction.
Asphalt is a sustainable and eco-friendly paving option. Unlike other materials, there is no limitation with asphalt pavement, and it can be 100% recycled. Let’s look at the facts showing the extensive use of asphalt in the U.S.
- The research shows that the United States gathered around 1,200,000 million tons of reclaimed asphalt shingles and 66,700,000 tons of asphalt pavement for new pavements in 2011.
- According to the Federal Highway Administration survey, 80% of the asphalt pavement removed each year is reused during widening and resurfacing projects.
This is significantly higher than the EPA’s recycling rates of 60% for aluminum cans, 56% for newsprint, 37% for plastic soft drink bottles, and 23% for magazines.
- Since 2009, the use of reused asphalt shingles has surged by 175%, and the reclaims for asphalt paving have been increased by approximately 53%. Moreover, the recycling materials in today’s asphalt pavement save 50 million cubic yards of landfill space each year.
- If we talk about the construction sector, high levels of asphalt have been used for recycling purposes. Asphalt pavements can be made from a wide range of waste resources. Modern asphalt paving combinations contain rubber tires, glass, slags, some types of sand, and even pig manure.
- In 2015, investors saved over $2.6 billion to construct new pavements in the United States.
What Is Asphalt?
Most people often confuse asphalt with bitumen and use them interchangeably, which is not right. Asphalt is a type of petroleum composed of bitumen, sand, and aggregates. A bitumen contains a solid distillate of crude oil, a mix of organic and inorganic constituents including hydrocarbons, mineral salts, and metals, that hardens under ambient conditions.
The mixture of bitumen, sand and aggregate that hardens when cooled is called an asphalt pavement or more informally known as “blacktop.”
Asphalt is made differently depending on its intended use. For example, roadway asphalt is typically made with a higher quality of bitumen so it can withstand greater traffic loads. The hot mix process begins by heating the aggregates (sand, stone, and gravel) to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This heat softens the bitumen which is then added and mixed with the aggregate. The resulting mixture is then placed in a paver where it’s shaped and cooled to form the roadway surface.
Perks of Recycled Asphalt
More and more industries are turning to recycled asphalt to lower their carbon footprint and reduce the cost of maintaining their site. Let’s discuss the benefits of recycled asphalt in detail:
- Blending recycled asphalt with the new asphalt can make the material strong. Since less new asphalt is being used, it decreases the manufacturing costs.
- Recycling asphalt saves construction waste as the material is not disposed of in landfills.
- When asphalt is recycled in a nearby facility, instead of going over the industrial process that includes mining, refining and shipping can save our land from pollution. Moreover, the use of gasoline reduces due to no heavy transportation, which can otherwise impact the environment.
- Recycling can save you extra bucks without compromising on quality.
- Contractors benefit a lot through recycling; they are able to save money on transportation.
- The rise in petroleum rates can increase the cost of new asphalt, making recycled asphalt affordable.
- Demand for new asphalt pavement and aggregate is reduced.
- Saves time.
- Reduced demand for new asphalt.
How Does Recycled Asphalt Compare to New Asphalt?
The roads rely on raw materials to meet the needs of our cars and trucks. The raw materials can be high quality, but they often take a long time to reach the destination. They may come from a native source, and they can be clean, but raw materials can also come with a great deal of environmental and social baggage. It’s easy to assume that the process of turning these raw materials into the finished product is simple.
The short answer is that recycled asphalt and new asphalt share similar properties in terms of ease of installation and sustainability.
The quality of asphalt and the cost to mine and extract it are decreasing. Most asphalt is extracted from deep natural deposits and is a finite resource. Recycling asphalt can be better for the environment, but the process is more complicated than mining natural raw asphalt. The harvested asphalt is melted, separated to remove dirt and other contaminants, and then ground and heated to return it to its original condition, ready for use in new pavement.
A survey aims to analyze the cost-effectiveness of recycled asphalt by comparing the cost per kilometer in two different states of asphalt. New asphalt costs an average of 16.07 US dollars per kilometer, while recycled asphalt averages 18.67 US dollars per kilometer. That’s a difference of 3.60 US dollars a kilometer. However, the research is not being done on a large scale, so better results can only be expected in the future.
Ways to Recycle Asphalt
The use of recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) has increased due to its eco-friendly properties. RAP is recycled asphalt pavement, ground back into an aggregate, and used again to make more asphalt. Thus, reducing the need for currently used chemical binders that are non-recyclable and impact the environment. Asphalt roads are a common byproduct of asphalt manufacturing.
The asphalt recycling process is complex, whether you are looking to reclaim asphalt for streets, highways, or parking lots. The tricky part is to identify the suitable method according to the need. Crushing is the most common way to back roads and construction sites. Here you will find a few ways to recycle asphalt.
- Let’s start with the crushing process. This process involves crushing asphalt in a plant and later mixing it with the recycled additive pavement. You can get the final product comprising at least 30% of the recycled asphalt through this process. This percentage varies with the quality of mixing; some brands include 10-15% material, which results in a better-recycled product. This is an effective and most-used method of recycling asphalt.
- Another popular recycling method is to pass the chunks of asphalt over a recycling assembly, increasing heat content to 300 ℉. After obtaining the processed asphalt, it can be laid down on roadways using pavement methods. As a result, you will get 100% recycled asphalt. The asphalt obtained through this process is RAP (Recycled Asphalt Pavement).
- Lastly, the third method to obtain 100% recycled asphalt is to crush the asphalt into pieces for the road base.
Types of Recycled Asphalt
- The first type is to use recycled asphalt as a cement supplement; in this type, the new asphalt is less used in the mixing process. This supplementation can be done at a facility or on-site.
- Hot Mix Asphalt facility. This type of recycled asphalt is carried out in the processing industry; there will be machinery for different stages, which results in asphalt for later use. Similarly, Hot Mix Asphalt on Location requires heating, compaction, and other processes to get recycled asphalt.
- The next type is the opposite of the previous one, the cold mixing of asphalt. For the facility type, replace the hot chamber with cold, and the rest of the process will be the same. While making cold-mix recycled asphalt on-site, pavement is milled for resurfacing, processing, and mixing.
- Lastly, recycled asphalt can be used to fill material. Although it’s not the ideal use for recycling, it can happen often. This type becomes important when the leftover asphalt is not completely disposed of.
Cons of Recycling Asphalt
While there’s no denying that recycling is usually always a good idea, there are pros and cons to recycled asphalt. Before deciding whether or not to utilize recycled asphalt in your next paving project, take note of the following:
- The quality will not be the same as the new asphalt. However, it’s not the case every time because it depends on the process used to prepare asphalt. To avoid that, look out for recycled asphalt from a reputable facility.
- The color is another important aspect for the consumers as it’s obvious that reusing will affect the quality and color of asphalt. Most people prefer the dark color of the new asphalt. So, if color matters to you, you can compare the two before purchasing.
- Another drawback is the maintenance. Installing and maintaining recycled asphalt regularly with the help of a professional contractor is a must, as the use of harsh chemicals can affect the lifespan of recycled asphalt.
R&D on Recycled Asphalt
Green paving is the coatings, processes, and materials used to optimize the environmental impact of pavement. Such interventions can lead to energy savings, increased safety, longer-lasting pavements, and increased production productivity, among other benefits. One of the main interventions that can lead to such benefits is improving the performance of recycled asphalt pavement.
The need for recycled asphalt pavements is rapidly increasing. Asphalt pavement is commonly made from recycled materials, but traditional materials have not improved their performance in recent years due to the increasing demand for U.S. road standards. That is why research and development are currently focusing on two main areas. Currently, it is estimated that less than 1% of the total asphalt in U.S. cities is recycled. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and three state departments of transportation in the U.S. are set to start a pilot project in some time to test the practice in California and Washington.
How to Recycle a Surface with Recycled Asphalt
Asphalt surfaces can last longer than we expect. You may be mistaken about the need for a new asphalt surface. Instead of ripping your asphalt surface, consider the following options:
- The first thing you need to do is clean the surface with the help of a blower and wire bristle broom. Do not use harsh chemicals on the surface. Leave the surface to dry for some time.
- You can proceed once the surface dries out. The next step is to look for cracks and fill them using hot or cold-pour crack filler.
- Shovel the surface evenly with recycled asphalt, then level the surface top with an asphalt rake.
Searching for a company that specializes in asphalt paving and maintenance? Contact Top Job as we have been working for over 15 years in the industry to ensure your pavement gets what it needs.
Most of us are looking for ways to be more environmentally conscious. One great way to implement this is by recycling. But before you can recycle something, you have to figure out what it is. Whether you opt for recycled asphalt or a new one, it is important to get your paving done by a professional.
If you are looking for top-notch quality asphalt and concrete services for commercial, residential, and municipal projects, contact Top Job. At Top Job, we are always looking for ways to perform our work more efficiently and cost-effectively while also remaining eco-friendly. Moreover, their small-town style of customer service means you are always treated like family.
Keeping a close watch on new technologies, methods, and Utah standards allows us to deliver comparable or superior results with minimum environmental impact and greater ROI to our clients.
Why us? Our systems and procedures are designed to keep our working staff, customers, and the public safe. Not just that, we have the required license and insurance to cover your projects. Our team is very responsive, and we have a safety officer on board. To learn more about Top Job’s commitment to the environment or to put the fifteen years of experience we have accrued to test, please give us a call at 435-764-0451 or get a free estimate.