An action, option, or choice is sustainable when it can strike a balance between being environmentally friendly, having a minimal effect on the community, and being economically feasible. According to this definition of sustainability, asphalt pavements are the sustainable choice for constructing pavements, such as roadways, airport runways, trails, sport courts, and parking lots.
The National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) conducts a yearly recycled materials and warm-mix asphalt survey. In 2016, 79 million tons of recycled materials were put to use in new asphalt pavements, making asphalt pavements the most recycled material in America. Because existing asphalt material is reused to make new asphalt pavements, it means the old binder and aggregates are replacing virgin materials. By doing this, it reduces the demands of aggregate mining, as well as reducing the use of millions of barrels of liquid asphalt binder yearly1. Also, “more than 99% of asphalt pavement reclaimed from roads and parking lots was used in new pavements instead of going into landfills,” saving nearly 50 million cubic yards of landfill space in 20163.
Additionally, caring for our environment includes reducing emissions and striving for clean air. A number of technological advances have been implemented industry-wide to help reduce the amount of energy needed to make asphalt pavements, and there are emission regulations developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that each asphalt plant must report on yearly. Since 1970, the asphalt industry has documented a decrease in total stack emissions of 97%, while increasing pavement production by 250%2. Also, new technologies have allowed asphalt pavements to be produced at lower temperatures, called Warm Mix Asphalt. Lower temperatures mean less fuel burned during production and even fewer emissions. It was also found that 31% of all asphalt pavement mixtures produced in 2016 used energy-saving warm-mix asphalt technologies1.
Sustainability is also about the impact on the community. An asphalt pavement’s impact on the community starts at construction. The speed of construction has a large impact on the community and asphalt paving is the fastest pavement construction method available, allowing traffic to use the pavement less than one day after construction.
According to the Asphalt Paving Alliance (APA), asphalt is used in about 85% of parking lots, about 85% of the nation’s airfields and more than 93% of paved roads in the U.S. are surfaced with asphalt5. Therefore, the performance and maintenance of the pavement have an effect on the community. Maintaining asphalt pavements is quick and easy, and whether you are cracksealing or pothole patching, the repaired pavement is usually open to traffic within a few hours.
Finally, the last part of sustainability is the economics. Recycling asphalt saves money. The reclaimed pavement is inexpensive compared to the virgin materials it is replacing. NAPA estimated that recycling of asphalt pavements into new pavements saved the American taxpayers more than $2.1 billion in 2016 materials1. Additionally, there have been recent efforts to quantify indirect construction costs experienced by users. Lost time costs, idling vehicle costs, vehicle emission costs, crash mitigation costs, and local business impact costs all add up to an indirect, yet significant effect on the local economy. These costs are mainly reduced by decreasing the time of construction, but also by the accessibility of the work zone. As mentioned before, paving asphalt is the fastest pavement construction method available, and therefore, can minimize the economic costs to the community.
Since the 1970’s, Bituminous Roadways has been a local leader in environmental stewardship by implementing technologies to reduce plant emissions, and by reusing asphalt shingles and recycled asphalt pavement in new asphalt mixture production. Since 2001, BR has recycled more than 1.9 million tons of asphalt pavement and will continue to use reclaimed asphalt pavement in the future.
Bituminous Roadways, Inc. is the Twin Cities’ most respected and sought-after pavement company. With more than 70 years in the industry, we provide dependable service and the highest level of quality asphalt paving anywhere. Call us today at 651-686-7001 or request a consultation. We proudly serve the Twin Cities metro and surrounding area.
1NAPA (2017). Asphalt Pavement Industry Survey on Recycled Materials and Warm-Mix Asphalt Usage 2016. National Pavement Association, Maryland. http://www.asphaltpavement.org/PDFs/IS138/IS138-2016_RAP-RAS-WMA_Survey_Final.pdf
2NAPA (2014). The Environmental Impact of Asphalt Plants. National Asphalt Pavement Association, Maryland. http://www.asphaltpavement.org/PDFs/SR206-EnviromentalImpact-web.pdf
3“Recycling.” Asphaltpavement.org National Asphalt Pavement Association, 18 April 2018.
4APA. Asphalt The Sustainable Product Recycling & Energy Reduction Asphalt Pavement Alliance, Florida. http://www.asphaltpavement.org/images/stories/recycling_and_energy_reduction.pdf
5“America depends on high-performing, safe roads.” Driveasphalt.org Asphalt Pavement Alliance, Florida.