GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Your roof’s old shingles might find new life as a road.

Businesses in Michigan and across the United States are participating in the green trend and bucking the high price of crude oil by recycling asphalt shingles, a mix of asphalt and aggregate, and adding that product into hot mix asphalt used for roads and parking lots.

In the yard of Crutchall Resource Recycling, the jaws of an excavator grab shingles from a pile and feed them into a grinder. The grinder chews the shingles into pieces just coarser than beach sand and drops them into the container of a large truck.

In 25 minutes, the truck is filled with 26 tons of crushed shingles.

That material, in turn, is taken to a paving company where it makes up about 5 percent of hot mix asphalt.

Any steel, cardboard, wood and plastic that may have gotten into the recycling container with the shingles is separated and recycled.

“We try to landfill as little as possible,” said Ellie Kane, administrator for Crutchall’s 17 employees in three sites – Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing.

Shingles, considered solid waste under Michigan regulations, must be disposed of in a landfill unless a company seeks authorization to recycle them. Crutchall got its permit last year.

“We wrote a generic exemption that would authorize the use of shingles and asphalt if the place wishing to do it provided us a management plan that we approved,” said Duane Roskoskey, environmental quality specialist with the waste and hazardous materials division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Under the permit, shingles have to be ground so 95 percent of it measures less than one-half inch by one-half inch. And, once ground, they must be used to create hot mix asphalt.

And shingles only can be used if they come from a residential building consisting of four units or fewer, according to the exemption document.

The National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants has recommended recyclers only take shingles from residential buildings of four units or fewer because there is a lower risk of having asbestos in those shingles than in shingles of a larger building. Only shingles containing 1 percent of asbestos or less may be used.

“It’s because it may be a different shingle or a different type of product on the roof,” Kane said.

Besides Crutchall, the only other company in the state permitted to recycle shingles for asphalt is a company in Livonia. The DEQ has written exemptions for recycling other construction materials – drywall in 2003 and scrap wood in 2006. Roskoskey said he gets a call a day from homeowners looking into recycling construction materials.

For shingles, the key ingredient is petroleum. An average house of 2,000 square feet with two layers of roofing will have five tons of recyclable shingles. That equates to 10 barrels of new oil not needed in the asphalt mix, according to Kane.

The “going green” trend hasn’t hurt, either.

“I think going green is what started it when all the homeowners and builders started calling, asking where they could recycle their stuff,” Roskoskey said. “But I think, in the last year, the high price of oil is what’s driven it.”

At least half the states in the nation have companies that recycle shingles, according to William Turley, executive director of the Construction Materials Recycling Association, based in Eola, Ill.

“Some states have been doing it a lot longer (than Michigan),” Turley said. “We have seen an upswing by the private sector because of the upswing in the price of oil.”

Turley equates the trend in asphalt shingle recycling, which started a decade ago, with the start of asphalt pavement recycling 30 years ago. Today, it is common practice and economically savvy to recycle asphalt pavement, according to Turley.

“No one’s worried about saving the environment as they are that it makes great economic sense,” he said.


(Emily Monacelli is a staff writer for The Grand Rapids (Mich) Press. She can be contacted at emonacelli(at)


AP-NY-07-29-08 1550EDT

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