Recycled Shingles are Keeping Asphalt Out of Landfills

By Karen L Edwards 12-17-2022
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In March 2022, the first-ever roof constructed from shingles partly composed of recycled asphalt was installed on a Florida home. The groundbreaking shingles were developed by GAF using recycled asphalt shingle (RAS) technology and have received several recognitions. They were named by Popular Science as one of the Best of What's New for the Home, and by Fast Company as one of the "Next Big Things in Tech" in the "Sustainability" category, bringing "some welcome circularity to the roofing economy" by allowing new shingles to be made using material reclaimed from old ones.

An Environmental Game-Changer

According to estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 11–13 million tons of asphalt shingles are torn off roofs in the U.S. every year. Less than 10% of that material is recycled into roads or other paving projects, while the remaining 90% ends up as waste in landfills. As the leading manufacturer of asphalt shingles, GAF felt a responsibility to use its expertise and resources to help reduce this environmental impact.

To do this, GAF developed a process that uses end-of-life roofing shingles to create briquettes that can be used to manufacture new asphalt shingles, without any reduction in product quality. Forbes magazine featured the new shingles as an Editor's pick, sharing that the company aimed to divert one million tons of asphalt shingle waste from landfills annually by 2030.

During a pilot program conducted at facilities in Lockport, NY and Tampa, FL, GAF found they were able to use about 90% of the shingle waste material they collected and produce new asphalt shingles containing approximately 7% recycled content. This reduces the amount of virgin material needed and diverts shingle waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. This introduces circularity into a previously linear industrial process by returning torn-off asphalt shingle material to the "beginning" of the workflow to help build new roofs.

GAF patented this breakthrough RoofCycle™ Process and the new RAS-containing shingles as the Timberline HDZ® RoofCycle™ Series. Now it was time to test them out in the real world.

First Recycled Asphalt Shingle Roof Protects Florida Home

posing with GAF team in front of house

Team members from GAF, Watertight Roofing Service and Habitat for Humanity gather to honor Horace Montgomery with a new roof.

The first roof installation was destined to be donated to a Tampa, FL family: local TV station, 10 Tampa Bay, had reported that the recipients of the new roof — Horace Montgomery and his son Carl, both veterans residing in the home where Carl has lived for 50 years — needed to replace their roof. It was a replacement that they couldn't afford. That's when Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County and GAF stepped in to help. The installation was completed by local GAF Master Elite® contractor Watertight Roofing Service. Speaking to 10 Tampa Bay, Carl said: "It's a wonderful feeling. You can't help but be so grateful that somebody would come out and do all this."

Wider Social Impact from Recycling Asphalt Shingles

According to the EPA, reducing the amount of construction and demolition waste delivers more than environmental benefits. The process fosters "employment and economic activities in recycling industries [that] provide increased business opportunities within the local community, especially when deconstruction and selective demolition methods are used."

The RoofCycle™ Process is a case in point: GAF has announced plans to open their first commercial-scale asphalt shingle recycling operation in Corsicana, TX. It will be designed to take end-of-life roofing shingles and create high-quality recycled asphalt briquettes that can be used in the manufacture of new products. Once operational, the plant is estimated to divert 300,000 tons of waste from landfills each year. RAS briquettes produced in Corsicana will be transported to GAF's Ennis, TX shingle plant which is undergoing an expansion to accommodate the manufacturing of Timberline HDZ® RoofCycle™ shingles.

Once the new recycling plant and the Ennis expansion are up and running, GAF plans to expand their capabilities to incorporate RAS into all of their asphalt shingle products, and aims to divert one million tons of asphalt shingles annually from landfills by 2030.

The company has committed more than $100 million to bring the RoofCycle™ process to commercial scale. To learn more about the containing recycled content and to get notified when they will be available in your area, visit the GAF shingle recycling page.

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