Being environmentally friendly is at the top of most people's lists when shopping. You want to pick a product that's as good for the earth as possible. And often, that goal includes being able to recycle the materials once you're done using them. A significant question many people have is whether they can recycle old asphalt shingles.
Table of Contents
Are Asphalt Shingles Recyclable?
Asphalt shingles are one of the most common (and affordable) roofing materials on the market. In the US alone, an average of 11 million tons of shingle waste occurs each year - 8.8 million tons are from asphalt shingles.
Before everyone had the idea of being ecologically friendly, old asphalt shingles that came off of a house ended up in landfills.
The issue with dumping old asphalt shingles in landfills is their degradation rate. It can take up to 300 years for asphalt shingles to decompose due to its dense, petroleum-based product. As a result, many people are looking for alternative disposal methods with the massive amount of asphalt shingles already filling up landfills.
Now, many facilities exist that handle the recycling of old shingles for new purposes. As a result, recycling facilities are paving the way - literally, as asphalt shingles are repurposed into asphalt roadways - towards greener earth by giving your trash a new life of service.
Asphalt shingles consist of organic materials like wood, paper, or cellulose - or fiberglass mats - coated with asphalt, topped with ceramic, sand, or glass granules. All of these materials are easy to make into something new through recycling.
How to Recycle Asphalt Shingles?
Recycling facilities for asphalt shingles are popular throughout the US, with most metropolitan cities having one or more options. However, not all roofing contractors will handle the task of recycling these for you.
Although asphalt shingles are recyclable, you can't toss them into your regular recycling bin for pickup on the next trash day. If your contractor doesn't handle the recycling, it will be up to you to figure out how to transport the old shingles from your location to a recycling facility.
Numerous tools can help you locate a facility using your zip code, city, or state. Sites like ShingleRecycling.org, a website run by the Construction Demolition and Recycling Association, or earth911 have large databases of recycling facilities.
Or calling 1-800-CLEANUP can give you helpful information about asphalt shingle recycling. Be aware that most places will charge a fee for recycling your old roof. But you'll also face a cost if you choose to dump your waste in a landfill. In comparison, recycling fees will be cheaper and sometimes voided if you separate materials properly before delivery.
Once you've found locations near you, do a bit of research to check out each facility's reputation, services offered, and prices. You might be able to find a facility that will arrange to pick the bin up rather than you having to arrange for transportation.
When the shingles are taken off the roof during the tear-off, be sure the materials are being separated. It's okay to leave the nails or staples attached, as the shingles will go under a strong magnet during recycling. But you will want to keep materials like metal or wood in a different container than the shingles to recycle correctly.
Asphalt Shingles Recycling Process
For asphalt shingles to become repurposed into something new, they must first be ground into tiny pieces and cleared of all contaminants and extraneous - non-asphalt - materials. The process consists of multiple steps.
Grinding consists of the asphalt shingles going into a grinder specially designed to handle abrasive materials. This grinder will then grind the shingles down into tiny pieces roughly 0.25" to 2" in size. Larger pieces are for the lower pavement layer - base stabilization course - while the tiny pieces make up the top layer - surface course.
The intended purpose of the recycled asphalt shingles can determine the necessary size of the pieces. Some grinders may have a primary grind of 2" to 3" sized pieces. If smaller portions are desired, a secondary grinding must occur. Asphalt pavement typically needs ½"-minus to ¼"-minus pieces, while aggregate base usually needs ¾"-minus.
Some repurposed products may require the recycled material to conform to grading requirements. For example, some pieces may have to go through sieving to become the appropriate grade.
All contaminants must be cleaned off the asphalt shingles before they go into future products. Things that might need to be removed include metals and wood.
What Do Asphalt Shingles Become?
Once you recycle your asphalt shingles, they start a new life in one or many different forms. The most common use for recycled asphalt shingles is for hot mix asphalt pavement (HMA).
One average size home has enough shingles to cover a two-lane highway for up to 200 feet. HMA can contain up to 5% (by weight) asphalt shingles.
Recycled asphalt shingles can also be used for aggregate subbase and base, cold patches to repair parking lots, ramps, driveways, sidewalks, bridges, potholes, and utility cuts. Other uses are new roofing, ground or road cover, and fuel oil.
And by using recycled materials, you're reducing the need to use new asphalt, a non-renewable fossil fuel. You're also helping money on road repairs by providing necessary asphalt that can go into paving or patching a road.
Asphalt shingles are one of the most popular roofing materials, but it has the shortest lifespan. With millions of tons of asphalt shingle wastes occurring yearly, recycling your roof can help reduce the amount of debris that goes into landfills. While your shingles may only last 25 years on your roof, it will take nearly 300 years for them to dissolve from the ground. So keep the earth healthy by recycling your old asphalt shingles.