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Recycling Asphalt Shingles Saves Money, Environment

Fri February 20, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Tom Marine

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) From rooftops to roadways, there is a new source to help produce the asphalt mixture used for paving in Pitt County — shingles.

The Pitt County Transfer Station is teaming up with Greenville Paving & Contracting Inc. to recycle tear-off roofing shingles, which are made primarily of asphalt, and use them as a substitute for some materials in the pavement bases and hot mixes. This program is the first of its kind in North Carolina, local and state officials said, and could generate a number of financial and environmental benefits.

The Daily Reflector of Greenville reported that Pitt County Recycling Coordinator Paula Clark said the county could have saved about $113,000 in disposal fees from this program during the past fiscal year. The transfer station began collecting shingles at the beginning of December, she said, and as of mid-January, had collected nearly 240 tons, calculating to a savings of $6,650.

“Prior to finding this market for the shingles, they went to a construction and demolition landfill,’’ Clark said. “So in developing this process, we are able to remove those shingles from that landfill, which in turn, saves the county dollars.’’

In addition to the money saved on landfill space, Clark also noted how the new program is not costing any extra resources. She said Greenville Paving transports the used shingles at no charge to its facility on Old River Road, where they will be shredded and used to make hot mix asphalt.

“It’s certainly a win-win situation,’’ said James Ross, asphalt quality control manager of Greenville Paving. “By reclaiming that liquid from those shingles, it’s a cost-savings measure to the contractors who produce it, the taxpayers who pay for new highways and the people who do private work. It enables us to make the mix cheaper.’’

Ross and John W. Demary, director of Pitt County Solid Waste and Recycling, described the process, which starts with roofers removing shingles from houses and ends with newly paved roads.

Demary said contractors bring the shingles to the transfer station to be weighed and recorded. After removing excess debris, such as wood, paper or pallets, the shingles are placed in large containers — 20-cubic-yard boxes — and hauled to Greenville Paving.

At the paving facility, Ross said the material is dumped into long piles and tested for asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral known to have toxicity that causes serious illnesses if inhaled. He said if the tests come back negative, those shingles are stored in a large pile ready to be processed. The shingles contain petroleum, which acts as a binder that holds all of the asphalt material together.

“We want to reach out to the public and let them know we have started this process of recycling shingles, but we also want to reach out to the contractors if we haven’t reached them yet,’’ Clark said. “Most, if not all of the contractors have been very supportive about this, because it is not a hard process for them. The bulk of the product they are bringing in [to the transfer station] is shingles.’’

However, there is still a long way to go.

Ross said Greenville Paving has a target of 2,500 tons of shingles before it can start processing the material, and he anticipates mid-summer as the soonest such an amount could be accumulated.

To help Pitt County along the way, State Recycling Director Scott Mouw said he is working with other counties and trying to get them to join the effort. He said Edgecombe County may be one contributor.

“In the recycling world, there has been a pattern of some counties doing something really well and others copying it,’’ Mouw said. “That’s progress. It’s very important and we are expecting the program will be a success.’’

For years, Mouw said, the waste stream of construction debris has had little value and been hard to recycle. Hopefully, he said, this type of program will change that.

“I think this could be the future of recycling,’’ he said. “If this program works well, the state can set a more formal set of rules that give recyclers a more level playing field.’’

Both Ross and Demary commented on the time it took to modify their permits from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the state’s Division of Waste Management that allow for this type of recycling. The year-long process, they said, would be worth the wait if Pitt County becomes the model for other places in the state.

“It is the goal, hopefully, that it’s not just Pitt County recycling these shingles, that other counties will be able to come on board,’’ Clark said. “Eventually, all shingles will be out of the landfills in the state of North Carolina.’’

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