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Asphalt Shingle Recycling: From Roof to Road

What do roofers do with all their asphalt shingle tear-off if the landfill closes?

April 10, 2015
Men on residential roof remove asphalt shingles.

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Ever wonder how many houses in the U.S. are roofed in asphalt shingles? Four out of five, according to WPTZ, in Plattsburgh, in upstate N.Y., drawing on information from the National Roofing Contractors Association.

That’s becoming something of a problem, since somewhere around 5 million American roofs, at least, are replaced every year, and what gets torn off before the new roof goes on has to go somewhere. We’re talking anywhere from one to four tons of debris per building, crowding local landfills where it takes 300 years for asphalt shingles to start decomposing.

On the Road

Manufacturers, government officials, and roofing contractors are trying to find ways to dispose of shingle waste in an environmentally sustainable way, which at the moment means grinding up old shingles and mixing the result into paving material for roads. As that solution becomes more widespread, and could conceivably at some point become legally mandated, expect to see more asphalt shingle recycling facilities and more stories about the importance of recycling roofing materials like this one in a recent issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Here’s the EPA’s take on shingle recycling: Annually, roof installation generates an estimated 7 to 10 million tons of shingle tear-off waste and installation scrap. More than 60 manufacturing plants across the U.S. generate another 750,000 to 1 million tons of manufacturing shingle scrap. 

Get a Grinder

Of course, if a roofing company is big enough it could do what Charles Copley Roofing, in Crystal Lake, Ill., did: It became an asphalt shingle recycler. Charles Copley Roofing made the leap by investing in a Wood Hog grinder that chews up not only the roofing company’s tear-off but the tear-off materials of other local roofers as well. Owner Copley decided to make the investment when his access to landfills changed. Formerly the company could dump the one to three tons of shingle tear-off in a landfill 10 minutes away from its office. That facility closed, and the nearest landfill is now an hour and a half away, making for three man-hours spent behind the wheel hauling debris. At present, Copley’s ground up asphalt material is shipped to an asphalt producer in Wisconsin. 

Copley isn’t the only roofer in the recycling business. “Roofers are more likely to get re-roofing contracts if the homeowner knows the waste will be recycled with no effect on quality or price,” says an article on manufacturer website Rotochopper.com detailing Canadian roofing contractor John Krueger Enterprises’ venture into recycling, which took the form of launching a recycling business called Greensite Recycling. 

Take a Tour

More and more homeowners are aware of the environmental impact of roofing tear-off and want to know where their old roof will end up. In Alabama, Brad Caldwell, owner of Roof, Rinse and Run, a residential and commercial roofer, takes readers on a tour of a local recycling facility via his blog. “Asphalt shingle recycling is a win-win situation,” he writes. “The roofing contractor can avert paying landfill fees while helping to contribute to future roads and reduce waste,” thanks in part, Caldwell says, to the state Department of Transportation’s allowance of 5 percent recycled shingle content in new pavements. Roofers in Alabama can truck disposal waste to one of 15 locations to dump shingle waste for free. See this account of Caldwell’s tour of a facility located in Salem, Ala. 

If you’re a roofing contractor and want to know how to transition to shingle recycling without actually going out and buying a huge piece of processing equipment such as a shingle grinder, check out this excellent instructional video on YouTube called (what else?) “How to Recycle Roofing Shingles,” which explains how to work with local collection points in preparing a good, clean load of tear-off for recycling.

Meanwhile, asphalt shingle manufacturer GAF is among the sponsors of the seventh Asphalt Shingle Recycling Forum in the O’Hare Airport vicinity this coming October 29–30. PR

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