Every year in the US, about 13 million tons of asphalt material is removed from old roofs to be replaced with new shingles. Only about 10% of that is recycled for use in paving and various roadway projects. The other 12 million tons of asphalt ends up in landfills where it takes a very long time to break down.
GAF, the largest roofing manufacturer in North America, has developed a shingle recycling process for which it has received three patents. The process involves grinding torn-off shingles into a refined material which can then be introduced into the shingle manufacturing process. The material – referred to as RAS for recycled asphalt shingles – has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of virgin asphalt needed to make new shingles.
Tests by GAF reclaimed upwards of 90% of the waste shingle material and produced new shingles containing up to 15% recycled content. Underwriters Laboratories certified the shingles containing RAS material with regard to their safety and effectiveness. The GAF process opens to door to creating a circular, sustainable economy for asphalt used for roofing shingles.
Roofs play an important role in the transition to a green economy. Apart from recycling asphalt shingles, there are increasing options for solar shingles, which take the place of both traditional asphalt shingles and ordinary solar panels by integrating them into a single roofing product. There are also so-called green roofs, which replace conventional roofing materials with a contained green space atop a building. Such roofs provide stormwater management, cooling, and an interesting aesthetic.
All aspects of buildings play important roles in our environment – even their roofs.
5 Ways Roofers Can Celebrate Earth Day, Everyday
Photo, posted April 15, 2012, courtesy of Robert Taylor via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
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