Does Recycling Asphalt And Concrete Even Matter?

At SEH we seek to provide sustainable, environmentally-responsible construction and excavation by continually reusing and recycle. Highly recyclable products, such as concrete and asphalt are many times 100% recyclable, enabling SEH to be the leader in environmentally friendly, recycling practices. So what benefits have we seen over the years?

It’s Good for the Environment

This is the clear benefit. Particularly in such an eco-sensitive region like the Chesapeake watershed, we have seen how irresponsible construction can cause damage. By recycling concrete and getting recycled concrete aggregate (commonly referred to as RCA),

  • Saves Landfill Space: Construction is a massive contributor to landfills, with construction waste accounting for up to 40 percent of solid waste that ends up in landfills. Every piece of asphalt or concrete that is recycled is a piece that isn’t taking up empty space in landfills, and that’s less landfills scarring our landscape.
  • Conserves Natural Resources: The creation of concrete and asphalt comes from mines, quarries, and petroleum oil from the ground. These raw resources are finite, and they aren’t regenerative, so every bit used is gone from the natural Earth. By opting for recycling, we reduce the amount of damage we are doing to the earth, and reduce the amount of materials we are extracting. For instance, it’s estimated that recycling a ton of cement saves 1,360 gallons of water from being used, from being pulled from our ecosystems.
  • Reduces Energy Consumption: Not only does asphalt contain high amounts of oil, there’s quite a bit of oil burned in order to create it. From the fuel needed to run the vehicles that move the petroleum, to the energy needed to refine it, the constant energy consumption spouts pollutants into the atmosphere. That same ton of cement mentioned above generates around 900 kilograms more of CO2 during production and transportation than the equivalent recycled ton. Furthermore, it is often multiplied over hundreds of tons per project. That’s a lot of pollutants.
  • Saving Our Streams: One very interesting use of larger pieces of crushed, recycled concrete is as riprap revetments. These revetments can help to reduce streambank erosion, keeping the waterway healthy and on course. While streambank erosion is a natural process, we sometimes accelerate it, and this can lead to extreme levels of pollutants seeping in. Building these revetments helps protect the streams from erosion that is accelerate unnecessarily.

It’s Good for Your Bottom Line

The monetary savings of recycling asphalt and concrete is incredible, and it can help reduce the cost of your project, making it a more profitable investment in the long run. Check out some of our recent projects.

By using RCA and recycled asphalt, as mentioned above, you reduce the transportation needs involved in a project. This coincides with needing less drivers, and less fuel to truck the material from manufacturing to the jobsite. That means a reduction in the associated transportation fees for the project.

It’s cheaper too. One of the pluses of avoiding the oil usage mentioned above is protection from price volatility. Oil is one of the most fluctuating commodities on the market, so every ton of asphalt could be more costly depending on the day, or on what mood the market is in. This could mean that the virgin asphalt that was within your budget at the start of the project may suddenly be more expensive later on.

You also don’t have to deal with the fees that come with product disposal. These fees can be well into the thousands depending on how much you are getting rid of, money that can be better used elsewhere on your project.

It’s Good for the Community

There are plenty of low-key ways that recycling concrete and asphalt helps out your community, above and beyond the environmental and economic benefits.

When we talk about reducing truckloads to the site, it’s not just less fuel consumption and lower prices – it’s less vehicles on the road, driving down traffic. Less wear and tear on the roads of the community, and less road congestion.

Another curious by-product of using recycled asphalt is that it can help reduce the urban heat island effect. This effect is caused by black asphalt absorbing heat from the sun during the days, which keeps the asphalt and surrounding area hotter during the nights. Not bad in the winter time, but in the summer, this can push temperatures into danger zones, and require air conditioning to run harder and longer. Recycled asphalt is lighter colored, so it absorbs less of the sun’s energy, reducing the heat island effect.

Using Recycled Concrete and Asphalt

You use RCA and recycled asphalt much the way you would use loose stone. For instance, for driveways, walkways, and patios, you’ll need to lay down a sturdy and reliable base materials. RCA and recycled asphalt retain their high-performance, stable characteristics, regardless of how many times they are recycled. And that’s an added plus – both concrete and asphalt can be recycled again and again, without losing their integrity.

In commercial uses, RCA and recycled asphalt works pretty much the same way. It’s a great base for commercial parking lots and municipal roads, as it is DOT-approved material. It can also work as a base material for constructing new buildings. On top of all that, it’s perfect for creating pipe bedding and utilities, and the large chunks of RCA can help improve drainage within a property. It’s even used at construction projects as a surface near the project entrance to help vehicles knock and scrape mud off of tires before hitting the roads, keeping the roadways clean and free of mud.

Whether you are a commercial business or a municipality, choosing to build greener is the right choice. It doesn’t just save money and reduce environmental impact – it can help to encourage others to do the same. This ability to inspire others to follow in the recycling path is what helps the sustainable construction and excavation movement grow, and helps to protect our communities.

So join us at SEH Excavating at making an effort to reduce our environmental impact and move forward with sustainable construction by recycling and reusing concrete and asphalt when you can. It’ll help out you community, your environment, and your wallet. It’s the smart choice to make.