Demand for recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) has decreased in recent years due in part to lower oil prices. Organizations like the Construction and Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) are reaching out to RAS beginners to educate them on the most popular use of RAS—hot mix asphalt (HMA).
“It has become very important that the material be used properly in hot mix. It must be used in the proper percentages in the asphalt,” says Kevin Herb, CDRA president and managing partner at Manassas, Virginia-based Broad Run Recycling. “More importantly, the RAS needs to be prepared properly.”
Herb says the recycled material is blamed for a bad batch of HMA and the pavement it is used in when, in reality, the lack of education affects the outcome of the product.
“Strict quality control must [have been] adhered to at the asphalt plant,” he says. “The same applies on the processing side, of course. Deleterious material must not be fed into the processing system with the shingles.”
For example, the wetness of RAS affects its end product. It should be the responsibility of both the processor and the asphalt plant to make sure the shingles are dry enough.
“Moisture content is a big deal for recyclers,” Lincoln Young, co-owner of Ground Up Recycling in Cookeville, Tennessee, says. “If it’s down, then it works much better when it goes into the HMA.”
GETTING IT RIGHT
Young and co-owner Matt Allen built their business from their experience in the roofing industry. This experience, combined with Young’s connections to the road industry, is what led Ground Up Recycling to focus on HMA as an end market.
“Finding a company that’s willing to work with the product and is just as interested in making it work on their side as we are grinding it and getting it to them is the key,” Young says.
Ground Up Recycling collects solely tear-off shingles. After the material is collected, it’s ground down to 3/8-inch-minus with a Hammermill grinder and is spec’d at 3 to 4 percent moisture content.
Young says public/private partnerships are the company’s go-to when it comes to end markets. Ground Up Recycling is currently working with three counties in Tennessee to divert their shingles from landfill.
“Two are very simple in that the counties decided they didn’t want shingles to sit in their landfills anymore due to space,” Young says. “What we did was lock our pricing with one county and said we weren’t going to go over a certain rate that is similar to the landfill’s.”
The third county is recycling shingles and wood. The county sends both materials to Young to be ground and uses the wood in a waste-to-energy facility, while the shingles go to Ground Up Recycling.
End markets are doing fine with company’s personal business—which processes around 25,000 tons of shingles per year—and for those seasoned in the process, according to Young. But with a beginner’s hand, education is the key.
“For those that are new to the market, [end markets] are pretty poor right now,” Young says. “I’ve seen a lot of people stop using RAS in our area. I heard at a conference that it had dropped nationally, and I think a lot of that has to do with people using it incorrectly.”
Tennessee allows 5 percent of HMA to be RAS, but asphalt companies were using 15 percent and mistaking it for 5 percent, Young says. By incorrectly metering the product, pavement can become cracked.
Young cites the Shingles Recycling Forum and the CDRA as entities that can educate beginners on proper shingles use. (Read the online sidebar, “A recycler’s gathering” for more on the forum.)
“We try to train the asphalt companies and try to be strict on how they use RAS because if they do it wrong, it can hurt everybody,” he says. “Especially us.”
Along with educating, Young is working with the state to increase RAS in HMA by putting a weight on state and government bids.
“It would be similar to a minority weight,” Young says. “If you’re using recycled material, you’d get a weighted system into your bid in order to increase the amount of recycling in shingles, asphalt and rubber, because it’s tough to get people to do something they’ve never wanted to do before.”
Dem-Con Cos., Shakopee, Minnesota, is a firm believer of education as the answer to increased diversion of asphalt shingles. The company’s waste services manager, Ben Wetzell, says waiting for success to come to the RAS industry is a mistake.
“We believe in industry advocacy and the CDRA to have a voice unanimously coming together and telling stories of success and raising awareness,” he says. “We become more successful with that.”
Shingle recyclers are coming together to share ideas and stories. With sharing comes success. “As you look at this industry and talk to others, this is a message you consistently hear,” Wetzell says. “Continuing to work together and have more momentum.”
Dem-Con services the greater Twin Cities metro area and deals with both manufactured and tear off shingles in its processing. The company takes in around 30,000 tons of shingles—both manufactured and tear off—annually.
The volume of RAS produced is dependent on various situations, Wetzell says. For manufactures, it’s how much waste they are receiving. Some are looking for end markets that are alternatives to landfilling.
“With tear-offs, it’s dependent on the weather. If you see a big storm coming through where homeowners are making insurance claims for reroofing, you’ll see an increase of volume,” Wetzell says. “In the spring, summer and fall, when more people are getting their roofs redone, it’s higher as well. It’s steady—there will always be waste shingles in the market looking for a home in either further processing or landfilling.”
Dem-Con has set up a specific area on its 130-acre environmental campus, which houses a landfill, single stream and C&D materials recovery facility, wood recycling and metals recycling, for shingles. There, shingles are brought in and ground down to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) spec—a 3/8-inch-minus.
The comfort level of using shingles, particularly in HMA, is having an affect on end markets in the state. Wetzell says as asphalt producers and engineers get more experience with the material, the demand for RAS will increase.
“We have a 5 percent inclusion rate from MnDOT and maybe that rate can be looked at again to be increased as engineers become more comfortable with shingles,” he says. “You aren’t using much in the grand scheme of things with that inclusion rate.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), a focus of Abbott Logistics Inc., a developer of asphalt shingle recycling facilities for Southwind RAS LLC, both based in Bartlett, Illinois.
“The majority of paving around the country is done by the government, whether it’s federal, state, local or township, and if they’re able to figure out how to improve transportation budgets, then more money ends up in asphalt pavement,” Matt Vondra, president of Abbott Logistics, says. “When there’s more asphalt pavement, there’s a larger demand for things that go in asphalt pavement.”
Abbott Logistics started with a pilot site in the northwest suburbs of Chicago “where there is a fairly high density of asphalt shingle roofs as well as a high concentration of homes that were built between 1950 and 1985,” where roofing would need to be replaced, according to Vondra. From there, the company moved into southern Wisconsin, all of Illinois to eastern St. Louis.
Southwind operates a large number of those sites. Abbott Logistics processes 200,000 tons of mostly tear-off shingles (90 to 95 percent) annually.
The shingles are visually inspected as they enter the site for any foreign materials, then ground and processed into a 1/8-inch sand, meeting all or most of Wisconsin and Illinois DOT specifications. Vondra says mix designs in those states have improved to include shingles.
“The majority of what’s effecting the end markets is the specifications of highway departments and the desire to improve the amount of recycled content in pavement and in construction in general,” Vondra says. “The laws and specs are now in place, so it’s getting people wanting to use it in more applications.”
The desire to use RAS in HMA depended on oil prices for a long time—high oil prices meant RAS was a cheaper alternative—but now that oil prices have lowered, education is imperative.
“It’s less marketing and more educating,” Vondra says. “The aspect of the provider being able to tell their customer that, not only does this make the material more stable, but it also has a green component to it that they can use in pursuit of whatever they might be doing, like a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.”
SLOW AND STEADY
In order to educate government entities that may be interested in using RAS in its HMA, having a good relationship with organizations like the U.S. DOT and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are a vital part of the process.
“I think anyone in the recycling business needs to have a good relationship with their regulators,” Troy Lautenbach, co-owner Mount Vernon, Washington-based Lautenbach Recycling, says.
Lautenbach Recycling experienced a 25 percent increase in volume compared with last year, processing around 2,500 tons of shingles, putting Lautenbach Recycling in what Lautenbach calls a “controlled upward swing.”
“It’s a matter of marketing and sales,” he says. “Finding more customers to provide us with more shingles, but we limit that effort, so we don’t have a lot of shingles to manage.”
Volume management is an important component of recycling, according to Lautenbach, because if there is too big of a volume, regulators can step in.
“There’s only a limited amount of capacity in our state to use shingles, and it doesn’t make sense to stockpile,” he says. “Part of managing a recycling facility is not getting too much material.”
Lautenbach Recycling processes its shingle piles—consisting strictly of residential three-tab roofing—with a Rotochopper grinder. The company also has an arrangement with an asphalt pavement company that grinds the RAS to its own specifications for its HMA.
Along with the growing economy in Washington, “People are redoing driveways and parking lots, and the government is fixing roads,” Lautenbach says. Companies and government bodies doing their own research helps with the end markets for RAS, but taking the beginning steps into RAS use should be done carefully, he advises.
“There’s a controlled, cautious approach to using it,” Lautenbach says. “One bad mishap can set you back years to using the material, so it’s beneficial to take a slow and steady approach.”