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Asphalt: The Green Paving Choice

Click here for latest Recycled Materials and Warm-Mix Asphalt Usage Survey Results.


IS 138 3rd Annual Asphalt Pavement Industry Survey on Recycled Materials and Warm-Mix Asphalt, 2009-2012Not only does asphalt provide the smoothest, quiet ride, it also is the most sustainable option for paving. Over the years, the asphalt pavement industry has been a constant innovator in finding ways to make its products more environmentally friendly — from reclaiming old asphalt pavements and rejuvenating their component parts for use in new pavements to the incorporation of recycled materials to the adoption of energy-saving warm-mix asphalt technologies.


As early as 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Highway Administration identified asphalt pavement as America's No. 1 recycled product in a report to Congress. A wide range of waste materials are now incorporated into asphalt pavements, including ground tire rubber, glass, foundry sand, slag, and even pig manure, but the most widely used are reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) and recycled asphalt shingles (RAS). The use of recycled materials in asphalt pavements saves hundreds of millions of cubic yards of landfill space each year.


NAPA, in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is quantifying the use of these technologies through industry surveys. According to the latest survey data, during the 2012 construction season more than 68.3 million tons of RAP and 1.86 million tons of RAS were put to use in new pavements in the United States, saving taxpayers more than $2.2 billion. Also, about 24 percent of all asphalt produced in the country that year was made using warm-mix asphalt (WMA) technologies.


When reclaimed asphalt pavement and shingles are reprocessed into new pavement mixtures, the liquid asphalt binder in the recycled material is reactivated, reducing the need for virgin asphalt binder. Using reclaimed materials also reduces demands on aggregate resources. Warm-mix asphalt technologies allow asphalt pavements to be produced at lower temperatures, which means reduced energy demands, as well as lower emissions during production and paving.


Compared to previous FHWA/NAPA surveys covering the 2009–2011 construction seasons, the use of these sustainable practices has continued to increase.


In 2012, RAP usage reached about 68.3 million tons, a 22 percent increase from 2009. More than 99 percent of asphalt pavement reclaimed from roads was reclaimed for use in new pavements instead of going into landfills. In the survey, 98 percent of producers reported using RAP in their mixes for new construction, pavement preservation, rehabilitation, and other projects.


RAS usage also continued to climb, increasing to 1.86 million tons in 2012 — an 55 percent increase over 2011, and a nearly 95 percent increase since 2009. Since 2009, RAS usage has been reported in 37 states. RAS includes both manufacturers' scrap shingles and post-consumer roofing shingles.


Producers were also asked about ground tire rubber, steel and blast furnace slag, and other waste material repurposed into pavements. Although national estimates of usage were not calculated, survey respondents reported using more than 1 million tons of these materials in 2012.


In 2010, FHWA made warm-mix asphalt part of its Every Day Counts initiative to speed the deployment of technologies that can improve highway projects' quality, sustainability, and safety. In 2013, NAPA and FHWA were honored by the Construction Innovation Forum, earning a NOVA Award for their work promoting the uptake of WMA.


In 2012, total WMA tonnage in the U.S. was estimated at about 86.7 million tons, a 26 percent increase from 2011 and a 416 percent increase since 2009. Most WMA in the U.S. was produced using a plant foaming process, which injects a small amount of water into the mix; warm-mix additive technologies accounted for a little less than 12 percent of the WMA tons produced.


The full report and related materials, including a state-by-state breakdown of recycled materials usage, can be downloaded below:


IS 138 — 3rd Annual Asphalt Pavement Industry Survey on Recycled Materials and Warm-Mix Asphalt Usage: 2009–2012