Recycling roof shingles in road asphalt gains traction

Marion roofer, Solid Waste Agency partner on Corridor effort

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Odds are good that the old shingles torn off a homeowner’s roof will end up in the asphalt of a state highway project and not the local landfill.

This month, the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency opened a shingle recycling operation at its County Home Road landfill, just north of Marion. It is working with a Marion roofing company.

The agency is joining a recycling effort that has been under way elsewhere in the United States and has been emerging in Iowa the past few years.

Jeremy Bleeker — owner of Eastern Iowa Construction in Marion — has been one of the state’s shingle-recycling pioneers and is now joining forces with the Solid Waste Agency to, as he puts it, get to the future faster.

That future could include the elimination of asphalt shingles from the landfill altogether.

Communications director Joe Horaney said the agency hopes to divert 6,000 tons of shingles from the 190,000 tons of solid waste it expects to bury in the landfill in the next year.

Bleeker, who had recycled shingles for use in dust control on rural roads for several years before he turned to asphalt pavement, said his data shows the agency will be able to turn 10,000 tons of recycled shingles a year into asphalt.

In the first 10 days of November, the landfill already had diverted 500 tons of shingles, Horaney said.

Horaney said the Solid Waste Agency’s interest is the same as Bleeker’s: to do the right thing while extending the life of the landfill and turning a waste product into something useful.

Eastern Iowa Construction’s spinoff, RAS Suppliers LLC, is among just a handful of entities approved by the Iowa Department of Transportation to recycle shingles for asphalt paving, and RAS has been working on it for a couple of years.

The recycled shingles most likely will end up at LL Pelling LLC, the area’s major asphalt firm with asphalt plants in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Iowa City.

Chuck Finnegan, president of LL Pelling in North Liberty, said Pelling has been incorporating ground-up, recycled asphalt shingles into its road asphalt mix in the past year or so as part of a DOT trial.

Finnegan said newly laid asphalt on Highway 13 between Highway 30 and Mount Vernon Road and on state projects in Anamosa and Oxford Junction have incorporated recycled asphalt shingles into the mix.

The climbing cost of petroleum, one of the ingredients in asphalt, has asphalt makers like Pelling lining up for recycled asphalt shingles, Finnegan said.

He said a typical asphalt mix might include 6 percent petroleum, with aggregates like rock and sand. Petroleum costs $500 a ton; rock and sand, $12 a ton. Adding ground-up, sandlike asphalt shingles into the brew reduces the need for new petroleum to 4.8 percent of the asphalt mix. The cost savings is worth it, and the resulting asphalt pavement is no worse for it, Finnegan said.

“The end result is what matters,” he said. “You’re shooting for a perfect cake. You know what you want your carrot cake to look like and taste like, and it doesn’t matter what you add as long as you come out with the end result.”

Roger Boulet, a materials engineer in the DOT’s district office in Cedar Rapids, said other states have permitted the use of ground-up asphalt shingles in pavement for quite a while, though in some instances the shingles are excess material from shingle manufacturers as well as used roofing shingles.

Bleeker’s Eastern Iowa Construction, the Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines and the Waste Commission of Scott County were approved by the DOT in 2010 to provide recycled material as part of the trial. The department now is looking to end the trial and allow recycled shingles as an option in paving specifications for state projects, Boulet said.

Under the arrangement at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency’s landfill, contractors will pay $30 a ton to recycle shingles rather than $38 a ton to bury them. Contractors must separate the shingles from metal, wood, plastic and paper.

Bleeker owns the half-million-dollar grinding machinery — which removes nails and grinds the shingles into tiny pieces — and provides employees to monitor the loads, grind the shingles and market them to the asphalt plant.

The Solid Waste Agency gets $13 of the $30-a-ton fee to cover its administrative expenses, while the Marion company gets $17. Bleeker said asphalt plants are paying about $20 a ton for the recycled shingles.

The Metro Solid Waste Agency in Des Moines charges contractors $10 a ton to recycle shingles, compared with $34.80 a ton for the landfill. The Waste Commission of Scott County charges $15 a ton, compared with its normal $25 tipping fee.


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