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Can you guess the #1 recycled material in America? It's asphalt. More than 80 percent — 73 million tons — of the reclaimed asphalt pavement removed each year during widening and resurfacing projects is reused in pavement, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That's substantially higher than the percentages for recycled newspaper, glass, plastic, and aluminum cans and magazines.
Asphalt roads are removed, recrushed, mixed with additional aggregate and virgin asphalt cement, and placed back on the road. And asphalt can be made to perform better the second or even third time around.
Recycling from other industries
The asphalt industry not only recycles more of its own product than any other industry, it also is a leader in recycling products from other industries into pavements to create a better product:
- Rubber from old tires — may improve resistance to cracking, abrasion, and fatigue. Also may have some noise-reducing properties.
- Slag from the steel-making process — improves skid resistance and durability
- Factory-reject roofing shingles — contain a high percentage of asphalt and can readily be incorporated into hot mix asphalt
- Sand from metal-casting foundries — more cost-effective than quarry sand, reducing material costs
Recycling asphalt roads not only conserves natural resources and decreases construction time, it saves American taxpayers more than $300 million each year. These everyday efforts conserve precious natural resources, minimize the impact of asphalt plant operations on the environment, and reduce reliance on landfills. It's a win-win-win situation.
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