Recycling gives asphalt roofing a sustainable advantage

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
Recycling gives asphalt roofing a sustainable advantage

Photo via GAF

Asphalt shingle roofing is by far the most common residential roof in the U.S., and the industry is working to make it a more sustainable option, including recycling and integrating with renewable energy.

Manufacturer warranties guarantee asphalt shingles for a 15- to 30-year useful life. When it's time to replace your roof what happens to your old one?

Here are some fast facts from roofing manufacturer GAF regarding replacing the average roof:

  • Creates up to 7,000 pounds of trash
  • Uses up to more than 5 cubic yards of landfill-that's more space than the average American Family's trash for an entire year!
  • Recycled shingles can be turned into road paving, up to 50 feet of asphalt per roof.

In an exclusive interview with, Martin Grohman, director of sustainability programs with GAF, spoke about shingle recycling opportunities and some of GAF's sustainability programs.

Q: How does GAF approach its recycling programs?

A: When I started working on sustainability with GAF in 2009, we recognized promoting shingle recycling was a clear opportunity for the industry and the company. We had been recycling shingles for a long time in the plant, and obviously shingle recycling was taking place without us pushing it. Since I came on board, the rate of shingle recycling has effectively tripled.

The biggest thing we have is a program called Certified Green Roofer that trains our roofing contractors on shingle recycling and it helps us give them a little bit of incentive. It's a really good program and it has really increased the rate of cycling.

Q: What is the life cycle of recycled shingles?

A: It goes into pavement. And asphalt pavement is essentially the same as a shingle. The shingle has a fiberglass web that goes into it, other than than they're largely the same. It improves pavement and certainly doesn't detract from it, and helps reduce the cost of paving. It's a really good example of recycling working pretty well.

Q: How receptive is the industry to recycling?

A: The best data we have is the rate of post consumer recycling is approaching 30 percent. By comparison, bottles and cans nationwide are about 20 percent, so you do have a good volume of shingles that get recycled. And we're talking about millions of tons of material being diverted from the landfill.

Q: Where can contractors and others learn more about shingle recycling?

A: We sponsor a site that's a clearing house for all related information:

Q: What other benefits does recycling offer?

A: For GAF we're working hard on landfill diversion, so we have zero waste. We have four plants that are certified for landfill diversion the most in the industry.

We measure what materials come in and what goes out and what percentage ends up as a finished product vs. going to the landfill. We certified the second shingle plant in Tuscaloosa at 94 percent, a new record we're proud of.

I liked working on the zero waste initiative because it's something consumers intuitively understand.

Q: How is GAF educating contractors about advances in building science?

A: More than 5,00 contractors have taken our Home Energy Saver Certification course. Our contractors see a lot of homes and we're pushing them to spend time in the attic, and look for the obvious areas of improvement and coordinate with energy audit professionals. We're seeing lot of opportunity in that kind of cooperation.

Roofing contractors could offer lot more value. Most homeowners get 2-3 bids and they'll choose the lowest price, but if a contractor makes proposal that is demonstrably different, it's a good opportunity to add value that the homeowner will notice. The contactor can say, "We'll replace the roof and also look at things in attic we noticed that are increasing your energy bill, the other guys didn't include that.

We coach our contractors to ask question, like are any of the rooms in your house that are unusually cold or drafty or have your utility bills been high, things most roofing contractors aren't asking.

The contactor that can take on that work has a good opportunity.

Q: How is the emphasis on green homes changing the roofing industry?

A: The biggest thing we're seeing is more awareness of the cool roofing and more solar-ready installations, where if you're not going with solar now you're maybe thinking ahead that you might down the road. This is so you don't have to relocate things like roofing clutter along the south-facing plane of the roof, you can make sure those planes are open and ready for solar installation.

Read more about high performance roofing.


Topics: Building Green, Remodeling, Roofing

Companies: GAF Materials Corporation

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

wwwView Gary Wollenhaupt's profile on LinkedIn

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