When it comes to product and material recycling in the United States, nothing holds a candle to asphalt. Asphalt pavements, which make up 94 percent of America’s 2.27 million miles of paved roads, are the nation’s most recycled product, ranking them among the land’s greatest renewable resources and best investments by government and private entities.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Highway Administration, about 80 million tons of asphalt pavement is reclaimed each year, and nearly 100 percent of that total is recycled.
By contrast, any reclaimed concrete from the balance of U.S. paved roads is little more than porous rock. Reclaimed concrete can be re-purposed only as a form of low-strength rock because the Portland cement that holds it together can’t be reactivated.
With asphalt, the cement or “binder” — the glue that holds the pavement together — retains its ability to function and can be reused for its original purpose. The aggregates — rocks, sand, and gravel — in the original pavement also are saved and used again. The same material can be recycled again and again with no loss of value.
In a comparison of renewable resources, the United States recycles about 2 million tons of plastic a year while recycling and reusing more than 60 million tons of asphalt.
Another plus with asphalt roads is that the recycling process can make them reusable and renewable immediately — and infinitely. When plastic is recycled, the chemical structure is changed; the plastic has to be used for different types of — and often-inferior — products.
Government and asphalt industry experts estimate that asphalt pavement recycling saves the U.S. taxpayer more than $2.5 billion per year. It also saves thousands of acre-feet of landfill space each year, with less than 1 percent of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) going into landfills.
The asphalt industry is the nation’s number one recycler, and here at Tucker Paving, Inc., we’re proud to be a part of it.
Article sources: National Asphalt Pavement Association, Asphalt Pavement Alliance, and the Asphalt Institute.