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A Robust Recycling Program for Roofing Systems in North America

May 15, 2012

A ROBUST RECYCLING PROGRAM FOR
ROOFING SYSTEMS IN NORTH AMERICA
ROD A. PFANNENSTIEL AND RICHARD GARRISON
NATIONWIDE FOAM RECYCLING INC.
703 Waverly Street, Framingham, MA, 01532
Phone: 888-820-2760 • Fax: 508-879-9760 • E-mail: tpfannenstiel@nationiwdefoam.com
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ABSTRACT
Management of the construction and demolition waste stream is an important environmental
issue. With over 3 billion sq. ft. of commercial reroofing each year, the resulting tearoff
materials represent an area of special concern.
In order to address this concern, roofing system manufacturers and industry associations
have worked with roofing contractors to demonstrate the feasibility of reclamation. In
addition, private-sector entrepreneurs have begun to invest in the necessary collection and
processing systems to make this option available to many roofers on a regional basis.
However, the recycling service is not yet being fully utilized throughout the continent.
Finding a home for the volume of roofing system components that are removed is the
fundamental challenge. As more end markets for roofing debris develop, the economics of
handling and collection will improve dramatically. This, in turn, will allow recycling companies
to offer roofing material recycling services that complement a project’s schedule and
budget—two necessary elements of a truly robust program.
Detailing experiences from coast to coast in North America, an assessment will be provided
on what is working and what still needs to be done.
SPEAKER
ROD A. PFANNENSTIEL — NATIONWIDE FOAM RECYCLING INC. FRAMINGHAM,
MA
ROD PFANNENSTIEL is vice president of Nationwide Foam Recycling Inc. and is based
at its corporate headquarters in Framingham, MA. With a business degree from Colorado
State University, he leads the efforts to provide recycling services for large commercial roof
replacement projects. His endeavors include membership in roofing and construction industry
groups such as EPDM Roofing Associations, AIA, RCI, CEIR, and USGBC.
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A ROBUST RECYCLING PROGRAM
FOR ROOFING SYSTEMS IN NORTH AMERICA
INTRODUCTION
Management of the construction and
demolition waste stream is an important
environmental issue. With over 3 billion sq.
ft. of commercial reroofing each year, the
resulting tear-off materials represent an
area of special concern.
In order to address this concern, roofing
system manufacturers and industry associations
have worked with roofing contractors
to demonstrate the feasibility of reclamation.
In addition, private-sector entrepreneurs
have begun to invest in the necessary
collection and processing systems to make
this option available to many roofers on a
regional basis. However, a robust system is
not yet fully in place throughout the continent.
Finding a home for the volume of roofing
system components that are removed is the
fundamental challenge. As more end markets
for roofing debris are developed, the
economics of handling and collection will
improve dramatically. This, in turn, will
allow recycling companies to offer roofing
material recycling services that complement
a project’s schedule and budget—two necessary
elements of a truly robust program.
Detailing experiences from coast to
coast in North America, an assessment is
provided on what is working and what still
needs to be done.
ROOF MATERIALS TO RECYCLE
Rubber and plastic membranes, foam
insulations, stone ballast, and concrete
pavers are all recyclable materials generated
from tear-off reroofing projects. This
paper will focus primarily on EPDM roofing
membrane and rigid foam insulation, as
together, they represent a substantial portion
of the roof waste by weight and are representative
of the wider group of materials
that can be recycled. The quantities of postconsumer
insulation and membrane that
have been reported as recycled over the past
few years have grown dramatically. EPDM
membrane alone has grown from just under
1 million sq. ft. in 2007 to over 5 million sq.
ft. in the past three years.1
There are several types of rigid foam
insulation. Some are considered “thermoset”
plastics and are not amenable to
standard recycling techniques. Others are
“thermoplastic” polymers that can be
reground and reformed into new plastic
products. Others have reuse potential in
nontraditional insulating applications.
ECONOMIES OF SIZE
Commercial flat-roof tear-off projects
vary significantly in size from several thousand
sq. ft. to a million sq. ft. or larger. The
economics of recycling become more favorable
when the job is large enough to generate
at least one full truckload of material. A
full truckload of EPDM membrane may
weigh between 25,000 and 30,000 pounds,
depending on how well the material is
stacked and loaded. Assuming an average
density of 0.33 pounds per sq. ft., a project
size of 75,000 sq. ft. or larger will generate
a minimum of one full truckload of material.
A standard truckload of rigid foam takes
up 140 cubic yards.
Small projects are more challenging
because the costs of transportation to distant
markets are nearly as expensive for
less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments as for
full truckloads. This results in a substantially
higher cost per ton for delivered material.
This may scuttle the recycling project
at the quote stage as the roofing contractor
may choose to bid simple disposal if this is
less expensive.
Solutions to smaller projects of 75,000
sq. ft. or less that are distant from processing
facilities include establishing regional
consolidation points, finding nontraditional
transportation opportunities (logistics
matching), and developing local markets.
COLLECTION TECHNIQUES
Roofing membrane is commonly cut into
manageable-size pieces when removed from
the roof. Contractors are asked to fold the
membranes and place them squarely onto
standard wooden pallets. Stacked to a
height of 3 ft., a typical pallet of EPDM will
weigh approximately 1,500 pounds. PVC
and TPO membranes are somewhat lighter
as they are rolled rather than folded. A common
48-ft. flatbed trailer can be loaded with
a minimum of 22 pallets of membrane.
Roofing insulation is a challenging
material to collect and transport for recycling.
Its lightweight nature is positive from
the perspective of fuel economy but negative
when looked at from a cost-per-ton basis.
Thermoplastic end markets are often distant
from the many points of roofing scrap
generation.
BUILDING MARKETS
Postindustrial EPDM scrap—i.e., trim
scrap generated by manufacturers during
production—is commonly recycled with
ready demand. This is also true for postconsumer
EPDM products such as automotive
window casings, moldings, and gaskets.
However, postconsumer EPDM roofing
membrane has not been commonly recycled
in the past due to concerns about cross
contamination with ballast stone, metal fasteners,
patching glue, adhered insulation,
polyester reinforcing fiber, and dirt.
In order to minimize these contaminants,
roofing contractors are asked to
sweep the membrane free of ballast and
loose dirt, remove metal fasteners, and
avoid excessively glued/patched areas.
Fully adhered roofs—i.e., those that are
glued down as opposed to ballasted with
stone or metal fasteners—are not currently
collected for recycling.
The role of the recycling collector is to
bring postconsumer EPDM to market in
sufficient quantity and with sufficient quality
to demonstrate its value as a reliable and
economic feedstock for industry.
Current markets for postconsumer
EPDM membrane include roofing membrane
manufacturers, rubber mulch producers,
and energy production.
Membrane manufacturers are uniquely
positioned to positively impact market
demand by integrating some portion of
recovered membrane back into their new
products. Recent demonstrations suggest
that the use of recovered scrap membrane
is technically feasible.2 Economic evaluations
of this “closed-loop” recycling market
are under way and ongoing.3
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Sample EPDM Recycling Specification
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It is important to recognize that while
closed-loop recycling markets are the
“ideal,” manufacturers take a very conservative
approach to using postconsumer
materials in their feedstock mix for new
products. Controlling cost and quality, and
securing a reliable supply of postconsumer
scrap are all important considerations when
faced with deciding on using postconsumer
scrap compared with reliable supplies of
virgin material. Consequently, only small
quantities of postconsumer roofing scrap
are currently used by manufacturers to
make their new products. In order to meet
the public’s demand for more recycling and
less landfilling, it is necessary to develop a
wide range of recycling opportunities. This
type of “entrepreneurial recycling” is
focused on finding beneficial uses, such as
the reuse of rubber membranes as weed
barriers, recycling EPS insulation into picture
frames, and grinding TPO membranes
for use in making walkway pads. This
broad-based approach, including both
closed-loop and entrepreneurial recycling,
is making important inroads toward establishing
a robust and reliable recycling infrastructure
for roofing scrap.
ROLE OF THE ARCHITECT AND
ENGINEER IN INFRATRUCTURE
DEVELOPMENT
Architects and engineers can positively
impact the development of new systems for
recycling construction-related materials.
When designing procurement specifications
for reroofing projects, the architect or engineer
can specify that contractors include
recycling of various materials as part of
their bid. The following provides sample
language appropriate for specifying EPDM
recycling:
• Verify that membrane is not fully
adhered, reinforced, or felt-backed.
• Remove ballast, metal fasteners,
wood blocking, or any non-EPDM
materials.
• Sweep surface to remove loose dirt
and debris.
• Cut EPDM into linear lengths such
that overlapped seams can be
removed and disposed.
• Roll or fold EPDM, stack squarely
onto wood pallets to a height of 3 ft.,
and secure with rope or stretch wrap.
• Store pallets on site to achieve minimum
load size.
• Contractor shall load material on
truck provided by others.
Architects are unfamiliar with the methods
of recycling roofing materials and the
cost implications of doing so. They are
understandably cautious when presented
with the opportunity to specify these items.
Recycling contractors can assist architects
to better understand this option by
clearly describing the process and providing
preliminary cost quotes to allow an assessment
of the cost-effectiveness as compared
with normal disposal. If the architect is satisfied
that recycling is practical and costeffective,
he or she is more likely to specify
the method.
School systems, government agencies,
and businesses are all indicating their
interest in specifying recycling services in
their construction projects.
REFERENCES
1. George Evanko, “EPDM Roof
Recycling,” Roofing Contractor,
February 2010.
2. Ed Kane, “EPDM Group Champions
Recycling,” www.RSIMAG.com, 2008.
3. Private client.