Let’s keep in simple: Recycling is important.
In the past decade or two, there has been an emphasis put on individuals, companies, organizations, and beyond to incorporate more sustainable practices into their everyday lives and operations. This gave way to include the recycling of building materials, including various roofing types.
But do you know what roofing materials can be recycled?
After 20+ years of experience in metal roofing, Sheffield Metals has worked to integrate sustainability into our products and recommendations, which is why we think discussing roof recycling is beneficial.
In this article, expect to learn why recycling roofing materials matters and if these four common roof types are recyclable:
- Metal roofing
- Asphalt shingle roofing
- EPDM roofing
- Concrete or clay tile roofing
Metal Roofing Recyclability
Can metal roofing be recycled? Answer: YES
Metal roofing is 100% recyclable, meaning that old panels, tear-off metal, and leftover scraps of metal can be appropriately recycled and used in future metal products, such as appliances, cans, plumbing, etc. The high recyclability applies to the five most common metal roofing types: Galvalume®, galvanized, aluminum, copper, zinc, and stainless steel.
In fact, some coils and sheets used to make metal roofing panels may already contain previously recycled metals. The most likely roofing material to be made of previously recycled metal is aluminum, which comprises nearly 95% of all aluminum roofing (think recycled soda cans). On top of that, using already recycled materials significantly cuts down on the amount of energy and resources required to produce a new coil or sheet from raw materials:
- Recycled steel (Galvalume) uses 26% of the original energy
- Recycled aluminum uses 5% of the original energy
For a little extra background, metal roofing materials can either be pre-consumer or post-consumer recycled content:
- Pre-consumer recycled materials – Scrap metal content produced during the manufacturing stage/process that has been recycled for future use.
- Post-consumer recycled materials – Excess materials that have already been in possession of a consumer at one point in time and have been recycled for reuse.
If metal panels produced from recycled materials are essential to you or your customer(s), make sure to specify it ahead of construction or installation to ensure the proper metal is used.
Asphalt Shingle Recyclability
Can asphalt shingles be recycled? Answer: YES
Asphalt shingles have easily been the most popular and widely used roofing type for decades because of the material’s lower price point and ease of installation. For a long time, a common misconception existed that asphalt shingles could not be recycled because it’s an oil-based product (petroleum). When an asphalt shingle roof was at the end of its lifecycle, the shingles were torn off and disposed of in a regular dumpster, which led to an abundance of shingles in landfills.
To this day, 11 million tons of asphalt singles still end up in landfills every year just in the United States. Additionally, shingles typically take about 300 years to completely breakdown in a landfill.
However, with recent pushes towards conservation and the three R’s (reuse, reduce, and recycle), a method of sustainable recycling asphalt shingles was inevitable. Now, you are able to recycle shingles at a qualified recycling center, which then use the shingles to make the pavement for roads, create new asphalt shingles, or turn into covers for grounds.
The biggest issue revolves around the awareness that this shingle recycling service exists for contractors and installers to utilize. According to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturer’s Association,
“Shingle recycling is available in most major markets in the United States and in some locations in Canada, and new sites continue to open. There are multiple resources for finding a recycler. You can check online at www.shinglerecycling.org and www.earth911.com, or you can call 1-800-CLEANUP.”
EPDM Rubber Roofing Recyclability
Can EPDM roofing be recycled? Answer: YES
EPDM, or ethylene propylene diene monomer, is a synthetic rubber that is used as a roofing material for low slope or flat roofing applications, which is common in commercial structures. In the past few decades, EPDM has grown in popularity due to its lower cost, easy installation and replacement, and lightweight characteristics.
Before 2006, there wasn’t a sound way of recycling EPDM when it was removed from a roofing structure. However, The EPDM Roofing Association (ERA) sought to eradicate a large portion of EPDM roofing products that ended up in a landfill after a roof replacement, which is why they launched the first EPDM roof recycling program.
For a little bit of background about the program, this service can be used for “low-slope ballasted and mechanically attached non-reinforced EPDM membrane tear-offs and offers job site collection and transportation directly to a recycling center.” From there, the facility grinds the EPDM into crumb rubber that can be used for various products, including waterproof materials and coatings.
According to ERA, in 2012, over 13.5 million square feet of EPDM rubber roofing material were recycled since the service began in 2006. This program has now expanded to 48 states and parts of Canada.
Like asphalt roofing, a slight disconnect can occur with contractors and others in the field who might not be aware that EPDM can be responsibly recycled, but the ERA and others in the EPDM industry are working to educate companies on the recycling benefits and opportunities.
Concrete and Clay Tile Recyclability
Can concrete and clay tile roofing be recycled? Answer: YES
The last common roofing material we want to discuss is concrete or clay roofing tile, which is a prominent material used all around the world, especially in Europe (Mediterranean-inspired buildings) and regions with warmer climates. Concrete tile roofs promise decades of protection to a structure, do not require the use of harmful chemicals and components during production, and offer home or building owners with a variety of colors to choose from.
Regarding sustainability, clay and concrete tile roofs are on par with metal roofing. Tiles made from clay and concrete are mineral-based and can be easily recycled after use as a roofing material. In fact, 100% of clay tiles can be reused or recycled. This saves tiles from taking up space in landfills, but if the tiles do end up there, at least they won’t release toxic or carcinogenic hydrocarbons chemicals into the earth.
There are many uses for recycled concrete and clay roofing tiles, including:
- Being crushed into gravel
- Use in other construction projects
- Use in landscaping around a property
- Sidewalks and walkway paths
In addition to post-consumer recycling benefits, many clay and concrete roof tiles contain already recycled materials, thus adding to its sustainability.
Why Recycling Roofing is Important
Leaves less of a carbon footprint on the earth
To start out, let’s define what a carbon footprint is: “The amount of carbon dioxide or other carbon compounds emitted into the atmosphere by the activities of an individual, company, country, etc.”
Nearly every product we consume requires the use of energy consumption at one point in time, whether it’s during the manufacturing phase, during transportation, or when getting incinerated at a landfill. All of these stages required the potential burning of irreplaceable fossil fuels, which releases emissions into the air and damages the atmosphere.
The recycling of any product, roofing materials included, helps reduce the carbon footprint you leave in the earth by reducing the number of products manufactured with new/raw materials, which requires for energy output. Plus, it reduces the amount of garbage in landfills that will need to be incinerated.
LEED certification qualifications
One of the more critical measures of building sustainability is referred to as LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is a building rating system available for nearly all building and home projects that provides the framework for businesses, contractors, and property owners to follow to be recognized as sustainable.
The LEED certification is based on points earned by completing tasks that are considered innovative and help reduce the harm inflicted on the environment. And one of the methods of earning points is by recycling materials for future use.
Positions your company as stewards of the environment
If you’re a contracting company, your reputation means everything. One of the best ways to differentiate your business from the competition is to offer something different or beneficial that others might not. If you’re bidding on a roofing job where the property owner is adamant about using green, sustainable building practices, offering to recycle any tear-off or excess materials might be the tipping point that lands you the job.
In other words, recycling is that selling point that benefits everyone in the long-run.
Laws require recycling in some states and localities
Did you know recycling laws might exist in your city or state?
Regulations related to sustainability and recycling practices are becoming more and more common in recent years. For example, some cities have laws that fine citizens who throw away recyclable materials past a certain percentage. Or, there are even states that have completely outlawed the disposal of recyclable materials in landfills.
It’s important to check with your local and state recycling regulations before any project to ensure that you’re following the correct laws for your project.
Wrapping It All Up
What you may have noticed from all four of these different roofing types is that they’re all recyclable in one way or another.
With technological innovations occurring on a regular basis and pressure for companies to convert to sustainable business practices, the recycling or reusing of previously -recyclable materials has become a reality.
Keep in mind:
- There is still a lack of awareness that some roofing materials are eligible for recycling.
- It may or may not cost extra to recycle roofing materials in some cases.
- If you’re a property owner, architect, or another individual who wants to ensure their products are recycled after use, the most important thing to do is verify with the general contractor of your project that they are responsibly recycling the materials.
- The same recommendation of talking to your contractor applies if you want to make sure materials that contain previously recycled components are installed.
- If you’re a contractor, it’s vital that you offer various disposal and recycling options to your customers.
At Sheffield Metals, we’re proud to manufacture sheet and coil used in the metal roofing industry, many of which qualify as LEED and ENERGY STAR® compliant. Plus, all of our metal can be recycled after use, and some even contain previously recycled metal materials.
To schedule a consultation or discuss how our metal can be used for your sustainable project, contact us today to speak with a knowledgeable metal roofing expert!