For any conscientious homeowner that cares about the environment, seeking out new ways to make their home more green is a major priority. Today, we know a lot more about the way the construction process and daily functioning of our homes contributes to the negative impact on our environment, and we also have a lot more information on ways we can mitigate these harmful effects. A home’s roof is one area that typically carries a significant environmental impact, particularly asphalt roofing shingles. From the manufacturing process, to poor energy efficiency throughout its service life, to short lifecycle, to typical disposal in landfills, asphalt roofing shingles are undoubtedly one of the most polluting roofing materials.
The good news is that today, those of us that own asphalt shingles roofs can change a part of this equation by asking your roofing contractor to recycle rather than landfill your old asphalt shingles roof. While you may be surprised at the notion of recycling an asphalt shingles roof, as this has not been a common practice over the last few decades, modern recycling technology and practices actually make it possible. There is a growing number of asphalt roofing shingles recycling facilities across the states, a lot more state support for the practice and a growing number of roofing companies and roofing contractors getting behind asphalt roofing shingles recycling and propelling it forward. In fact, between 2009 and 2010, the rate of asphalt roofing shingles recycling has increased over 148 percent! What this ultimately means is that as a homeowner you can do your part by seeking out a roofing contractor that will recycle your old asphalt shingles roof. While an asphalt shingles roof will never be good for our environment, recycling it has a number of significant environmental benefits that have far reaching impact into the future well-being of our planet.
Understanding the lifecycle of asphalt roofing shingles
To appreciate the extent to which asphalt roofing shingles harm the environment it is necessary to look at this roofing product from a lifecycle perspective.
Composition and Manufacturing: Asphalt roofing shingles are made from 90% heavy oil (bitumen). Because of this, the manufacturing process necessitates the recovery and processing of petroleum, which is one of the biggest contributors to global warming worldwide.
Popularity: Part of the reason why asphalt roofing shingles are an environmental hazard is because of how popular their are both in residential and commercial construction projects. While many people are aware that asphalt shingles are not the greenest roofing product out there, their cheap price beats out all other considerations. Most people are on tight budgets, and if they can get a new roof for an average of $5,000, that is what they will go ahead and do. This is precisely why 7 out of 10 homes in America is still roofed with asphalt shingles, despite the growing awareness of their negative environmental impact.
Energy Efficiency: Asphalt roofing shingles are the least energy efficient material for your roof because they attract and absorb sun’s heat, raising the temperature inside the home by as much as 20-25 degrees, causing your cooling costs to skyrocket. Additionally, because asphalt roofing shingles absorb heat, they contribute to the overall increase in the heat island effect in the city, as well as smog and air pollution.
Durability and Longevity: Unfortunately, asphalt roofing shingles are not designed to last. Even a perfectly installed asphalt roof with good roofing underlayment and ventilation system, will rarely last 20 years or more. Most roofs are not installed this way and as a result will last between 10-15 years. Often, people who try to save of roof installation end up having to replace their asphalt roof after as little as 5 years. This is the reason why as much as 10 million tons of asphalt roofing shingles are removed from homes across the US every year and dumped into landfills.
Negative environmental impact of landfilling asphalt roofing shingles
There are a number of serious environmental issues associated with dumping asphalt roofing shingles into landfills.
1. Lack of precious space: as a country we are currently facing a landfill crisis, where our landfills simply cannot adequately absorb our collective waste. Asphalt shingles are very bulky, cannot be compressed and as a result take up a lot of space that could be used for other materials that cannot be recycled. This is why, tipping fees for asphalt roofing shingles have significantly increased over the years.
2. Wasted resources: asphalt roofing shingles are made up of 25% asphalt, which is costly to manufacture, once again requiring a lot of energy and petroleum. By landfilling this asphalt we are wasting a perfectly good material that can be used in numerous construction projects. This not only puts an additional burden on the environment but also squanders financial resources used to produce new asphalt, which can be redirected for other purposes. This is particularly important when it comes to state run construction projects, which are paid for with our hard-earned tax dollars. When asphalt roofing shingles get dumped into landfills, it is the same as our money being dumped there as well, instead of being used to fund more meaningful projects such as our public schools, etc
Benefits of asphalt shingles recycling
-Save energy and resources needed to dump asphalt shingles into landfills
-Save landfill space
-Lower greenhouse gas emissions
-Reduce the amount of new oil needed in manufacturing of asphalt and asphalt products, and reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil
-Use recycled asphalt shingles in roads and pavement to produce stronger, longer lasting pavement with stronger resistance to cracking.
-Reduce government spending on new asphalt for construction and road building projects.
-Use recycled asphalt roofing shingles in a variety of other applications, such as cold patch, hot mix asphalt, rural roads, dust control, new roofing shingles, and more.