Asphalt Producers Are Among the Nation’s Top Recyclers
According to the latest industry survey by the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the asphlt industry reclaimed 97 million tons of RAP for future use, saving about 58.9 million cubic yards, or enough landfill space to fill up the dome of the U.S. Capitol 1,223 times. This massive reclamation effort also saved $5.3 billion in gate fees for disposal in landfills.
Of the 97 million tons of RAP reclaimed, contractors reused 89.2 million tons in new asphalt pavements in 2019. This is a nearly 8.5 percent increase from the 2018 construction season and represents a nearly 59.3 percent increase from the total estimated tons of RAP used in 2009, when this annual survey was first conducted. For the first time, the survey evaluated greenhouse gas emissions, finding RAP usage saved 2.4 million metric tons of CO2e, the equivalent of removing 520,000 passenger vehicles from the road.
Additional survey results show that asphalt producers used an estimated 921,000 tons of reclaimed asphalt shingles (RAS) in asphalt mixtures in 2019. RAS usage during the 2019 construction season is estimated to have reduced the need for 184,200 tons (more than 1 million barrels) of asphalt binder and about 460,000 tons of aggregate with a total estimated value of more than $103 million.
Other recycled materials commonly reported include recycled tire rubber, blast furnace slag, steel slag, cellulose fibers, and fly ash. Fifty-two companies in 24 states reported nearly 1.3 million tons of these other recycled materials in the production of nearly 8.3 million tons of asphalt mixtures.
Asphalt mix producers also continue to make significant use of energy-saving warm-mix asphalt (WMA) technologies. In 2019, contractors used WMA technologies for the production of 164.5 million tons of asphalt mix. A number of environmental, worker safety, and construction benefits have been realized through the adoption of WMA technologies. Nearly half of the WMA production was at reduced temperatures decreasing the energy required to manufacture the mix. The most common WMA technology used is plant-based foaming, which injects a small amount of water into the asphalt binder during production.
NAPA collected survey responses over the first half of 2020. The report compiles results from 212 companies with 1,101 plants in 48 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and one U.S. territory.