“In many cases, an EPDM roof can be recycled at no additional cost to the roofer or building owner,” says Ellen Thorp, associate executive director of the EPDM Roofing Association, Bethesda, Md. “Roofing contractors can include the recycling in their project estimate to make their bid stand out. Building owners can recycle their EPDM membrane to meet sustainability goals
and reduce waste at their facilities. Architects can write the recycling process into their new roof specifications.”
“Simply put, EPDM lasts a very long time and can also be recycled, making it one of the most sustainable roofing products available today,” adds John Geary, association chairman and vice president of marketing for Indianapolis-based Firestone Building Products.
According to Brattleboro, Vt.-based Northeast Recycling Council estimates, 11 million tons of asphalt-shingle scrap from tear-offs and manufacturing plants are produced annually in the U.S. Every ton recycled is equivalent to saving one barrel of oil in the form of asphalt from going to the landfill. Many roofing contractors also have found that offering to recycle shingles gives them an advantage over the competition, among environmentally aware customers.
Recycling asphalt is often cheaper than the landfill option and can be made even less expensive if tear-off materials are separated properly at the building site. Asphalt recycling service providers and drop-off locations are now active in 50 major markets in the U.S.
Recycled shingles can be ground up for asphalt paving mix used in roadways. The Washington, D.C.-based Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) says ground-up shingles typically represent up to 5 percent of pavement and often improve its quality, increasing its resistance to wear and moisture, deformation and cracking. Owens Corning estimates shingle debris from the average American home could help pave 200 feet of a two-lane highway.
“We all have a shared responsibility to be environmentally conscious and protect our planet in any way we can,” says ARMA Executive Vice President Reed Hitchcock. “Roof recycling not only reduces greenhouse-gas emissions and waste and conserves landfill space, it also contributes to a more sustainable world.”
RECYCLING’S INFINITE POTENTIAL
Regardless of the roofing material in question, the issue of logistics often proves the greater challenge than the recycling process itself. Contractors must segregate the roofing material from other waste and prepare it properly for transport. The right transportation must be arranged, often when timing is critical. A recycler who handles the discarded roofing material, preferably one located a reasonable distance away, must be identified.
But the “up” side is growing. New resources are emerging. Entrepreneurs are entering the market to invest in new collection and processing systems in more parts of the country. This will make it easier for roofers and building owners to find specialty recyclers that can meet a project’s schedule and budget, two key considerations.
Raw materials are finding new life in everything from commercial flooring to roadbeds; some even go into the next generation of roofing materials to provide another 30 years of service. This, in turn, reduces the demand for virgin materials. In addition to the benefits of avoiding possible financial penalties and keeping the material out of the landfill, recycling roofing generates jobs and encourages experimentation to discover other uses for these recycled materials.
When one considers the billions of square feet of roofing already manufactured and installed in North America in the 21st century alone, recycling’s role in reducing waste and improving efficiency appears virtually without limit.
RESOURCES FOR RECYCLING INFORMATION
Metal: Visit Earth911.com/recyclingguide/how-to-recycle-metal for fundamental information. The Internet features a multitude of scrap yards and recyclers that handle metal nationally.
PVC: The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers represents companies that acquire, process and sell post-consumer plastic waste.
EPDM: The EPDM Roofing Association includes recycling information on its website.
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