Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Save the Environment, Bottom Line by Increasing Your Recycling Efforts

(from the March 2009 Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

I’m not talking about plastic here. Anyone can put a filter on their kitchen faucet and feel better about saving our landfills from a plastic bottle invasion, but it’s the members of the asphalt industry who can participate in the big carbon footprint savings. We get to work with the No. 1 recycled item in the world: recycled asphalt pavement (RAP). We re-use the liquid asphalt cement (AC) and the aggregate that’s in RAP. We’ve even found a way to do it while decreasing the production temperature of the new mix.

But how much RAP are you, specifically, running at your hot mix asphalt (HMA) facility? What percentage of RAP did you put in that state mix last spring? If the department of transportation (DOT) allows 15 percent in the surface course, did you use 15 percent, or did you over-cautiously only add 5 percent?

It’s perfectly safe to jump on the recycling bandwagon and save yourself some money. Based on the fictional numbers I’ve run in the Economic Example sidebar below, using 5 percent RAP in a mix would save a producer good cash per ton. Imagine how much more he’d save if he increased the amount of RAP further, thus decreasing the amount of virgin materials. And look at the Environmental Example to see how much virgin material he leaves for some other project.

Even if your state agency hasn’t given the green light to run high percentages of RAP, the trend is under way. In fact, as CalTrans’ Terrie Bressette and NCAT’s Andrea Kvasnak pointed out during their presentations at the 54th annual National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) meeting, many states have higher RAP allowed percentages than producers and contractors take advantage of.

And that’s a shame. We know RAP supplies are easily processed, cleaned materials that present quality mix components. Long gone are the days when shingles contained asbestos or millings came from questionable mixes.

It helps the asphalt industry when we each take positive, proactive steps toward advancing higher percentages of RAP in mixes. Showing progressive state agencies that we, as an industry, are willing and able to tackle those higher percentages is a win-win for us. NAPA has even identified that as an important point on its journey to doubling the amount of RAP used in asphalt mixes during the next five years. Does that sound like a tall order? It’s one of the association’s six core strategies for 2009 and it sounds quite plausible when you read through the enormous list of steps NAPA staff has outlined to bring the dream to fruition.

As with any industry goal, it will involve participation from all segments of industry—and that includes readers of AsphaltPro. Do you think your plant can run high RAP (greater than 50 percent) mixes? Do you think you’re ready to put a “very high RAP content” (70 percent) mix on your next commercial project? Whatever RAP project you’re working on, are you taking measurements and making notes to share with NAPA and AsphaltPro staff? We’ve got to get the word out to others that recycling not only “saves” the environment, but your bottom line as well. Isn’t that something worth increasing?

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)
(See print publication for sidebars referenced in this article.)

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