Is Recycled Asphalt Eco-Friendly?

March 3, 2022

As of 2019, the U.S. had roughly 3,600 asphalt plants, producing around 420 million tons of asphalt per year. Making up a large part of the demand were the 2.8 million miles of paved roads in the U.S. 94% are paved in asphalt. Paired with that statistic, approximately 80% of the nearly 3,330 runways managed by the FAA in the U.S., are also surfaced in asphalt. (National Asphalt Pavement Association, 2020)

Hence, we expend a lot of energy and consume a lot of materials to produce asphalt surfacing in the United States.

Addressing Sustainability

Inherent in the production of asphalt is the question of sustainability. How does the U.S. keep its roads paved and repaired while still honoring the commitment to be sustainable? That’s an ethos that we embody at Staker Parson. Being a leading force in the industry, we uphold this commitment daily. When our clients need asphalt for their projects, we face a unique dilemma: to find a product that’s cost-effective, provides longevity, and cares for our natural resources.

New Asphalt Production

The production of new asphalt, in its simplest form, is a combination of gravel, sand, and bitumen (an oil product). These are combined, treated, and finally heated into its final state. Anything produced using natural materials is the greatest consumer of resources (environmentally and financially) and produces some waste. While there are use cases for new asphalt, as in situations where new product is mandated, it’s not the most sustainable option. Moreover, if the construction is done right, recycled asphalt has the potential to last just as long, if not longer, than virgin-made material.

Recycled Asphalt Production

The bulk of recycled asphalt is produced using old asphalt that’s removed from roads and highways (known as milling). When the Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP) is removed, it’s then crushed and screened to get the desired material size. Aside from this, the recycling process can also include materials that might otherwise find themselves in landfills, such as tire rubber, metal refining waste (known as slag), foundry sand, and glass.

The main difference? It uses materials that typically would be discarded as waste and repurposes those into a new asphalt product that’s both eco-friendly and cost-effective.

The reality is asphalt pavements are recycled at a staggering rate. More than 99% are being reinstated for use. In fact, in 2019 alone, 97 million tons of RAP were collected and allocated for reuse. That saved nearly 60 million cubic yards of space in our nation’s landfills. Another 5.5 million tons of RAP were used as aggregate in cold-mix asphalt and other road-building endeavors. (NAPA, 2020)

Is recycled asphalt eco-friendly? The answer is an overwhelming yes. Under most circumstances, it’s a viable and preferred option for our clients. It costs less to produce, and its durability fits most applications. Most importantly, it helps Staker Parson in our efforts to protect the environment that we care deeply about.

Would you consider using recycled asphalt? Contact Us today to learn how we can provide a cheaper, more sustainable asphalt solution for your projects!