Asphalt recycling matters more than ever, and as of December 2021, it is the most recycled material on Earth. Also known as bitumen, asphalt is a refined, solid-state petroleum made from distilling crude oil. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur are used to create this prized material, which is valued for its binding capabilities, structural strength, and resistance to temperature. Roadways, waterproof surfaces, parking lots, and roof shingles are among the many products that asphalt is used for, as the United States produced 420 million tons of it in 2019.
What many people do not know is that asphalt is a completely renewable resource and has a circular lifecycle, meaning that it is restorative by design and can continue to be recycled many times. Recycling this versatile material benefits people in more ways than one, as recycled asphalt saves American taxpayers more than $1.8 billion dollars. In addition, it prevents 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere, prevents 11 tons of shingle waste from entering landfills, reduces dependence on foreign oil sources up to 7.76 million barrels per day, and cuts processing costs to only $25 per recycled batch.
The asphalt recovery market is a $7.1 billion dollar industry, and demands of this material are expected to grow 3% per year as we progress into the future. In more than 20 states there are roofing recovery sites, and Vermont Act 175 made shingle recycling mandatory in their state. In order to recycle this asphalt, closed-loop recycling is employed in a four-step process that includes milling, mixing, extracting, and distilling the recycled materials for reuse. Due to the extreme benefits of such an initiative for many sectors of economic and environmental success, the asphalt economy is not the future; It is already here.