Today, one of the biggest concerns plaguing the construction industry is recycling. Materials that can be easily recycled are more likely to see widespread advocacy and usage, whereas stuff that’s hard to recycle or completely unfriendly to the environment is being gradually discouraged and steadily phased out.
How Is Asphalt Recyclable?
Asphalt can be recycled. In fact, it’s one of the most common recycled materials in construction. Two of the items that asphalt can be recycled into are reclaimed asphalt pavement or RAP and reclaimed asphalt shingles or RAS. Both RAP and RAS are recycled in dedicated plants. RAP has the highest recycling rate across all materials. It only has 5-6% asphalt binder. On the other hand, RAS generally contains 20-40% asphalt binder but is more rarely recycled.
Asphalt tends to become much stiffer over time. This happens due to a series of factors beyond our control such as exudation, evaporation, physical hardening, and oxidation. This stiff asphalt cannot be completely recycled in and of itself. It’s a common best practice to combine reclaimed asphalt shingles or pavement with softening agents or rejuvenating additives apart from pure asphalt to restore the chemical and physical properties.
The recycling isn’t 100% perfect, however, as once an asphalt highway has gone through years of wear and tear, it will never be the same.
Also, it’s sometimes better to have in-place recycling methods to restore pavements and roads back to their original condition than to recycle the asphalt.
Not all asphalt recycling is going to be successful also. It has to be made sure that recycling a particular batch of asphalt from a site is going to be cost-effective, be environmentally safe, and most importantly, turn out to produce asphalt that performs sufficiently well.