Is Asphalt a Sustainable Material?

One of the best things about living in the “information age” is that people have access to so much knowledge they may not have had before. This knowledge is particularly useful when it comes to sustainability and the environment. Everybody knows that with each passing year, it becomes more important to conserve resources, recycle, and seek out products and services that demonstrate a commitment to the environment. If everybody develops this mindset and does their part to help the planet in this way, everybody benefits.

Some of these sustainable products are flashy and new. For example, fully electric cars are becoming more common these days – and for those who can afford them, these automobiles can significantly reduce the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Things like soap and detergent are also great examples. More and more companies are designing effective products that have a much milder effect on the environment, and large numbers of people are switching to these sustainable products every year.

But some of the most sustainable products in the world are not knew at all. In fact, some of them have been around for a long time.

Asphalt is a perfect example. We see it every day. We drive on it, walk on it, bike on it; we use it for countless things, from little home improvement projects to huge industrial paving developments. But relatively few people realize that asphalt is virtually 100% recyclable, and is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet.

This may be surprising, considering how durable and strong asphalt is – but it’s absolutely true. When asphalt reaches the end of its natural life cycle and begins to deteriorate, a process known as “milling” is used to effectively break up the old asphalt into smaller and smaller pieces. This old material is processed and mixed with fresh materials to create new asphalt – which means the asphalt you’re driving or walking on today could very well have come from some other street or sidewalk in your town or city.

So the answer to the question – is asphalt recyclable – is clearly yes. Here are some amazing facts to back it up. Around 100 million tons of asphalt is recycle every year in the United States alone, and nearly 100% of this recycled asphalt is used in the formation of new pavement. And when you compare the amount of asphalt that is recycled to other recyclable materials, it’s not even close: more asphalt (by far) is recycled every year than paper or aluminum.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined asphalt processing plants to have a minimal impact on the quality of air. Asphalt pavement is also completely free of chemicals or other artificial compounds that can make their way into the soil and/or water table.

The next time you’re driving on asphalt, consider how amazing it is that such a durable and strong material can also be one of the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials in the world. This is just one more reason to consider asphalt for your next residential or commercial paving project.