Reclaimed asphalt pavement is increasingly being reused in new pavements, according to a new survey from the National Asphalt Pavement Association.
In 2021, the average percentage of RAP used in asphalt mixtures rose to 22% – up from 15.6% in 2009. The report also shows that 95% of RAP is reused in new pavement, making it the most recycled product in the U.S., NAPA says. The remaining 5% is used in other civil engineering applications, such as unbound aggregate bases, according to the survey.
In all, 94.6 million tons of RAP were used in mixtures in 2021, a 69% increase from 2009 when the survey was first taken.
Using RAP also saved in greenhouse gases, preventing 2.6 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions. That’s “the equivalent of removing 570,000 passenger vehicles from the road,” NAPA says.
“The latest Asphalt Pavement Industry Survey on Recycled Materials and Warm-Mix Asphalt Usage: 2021 has new data, but a familiar conclusion: Our industry takes sustainability seriously,” said NAPA Chairman of the Board James Mitchell, CEO of Superior Paving Corp. “Quantifying our impact in this way began in 2009 through partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and each year it reveals that the asphalt pavement industry is a leader in connecting the country while keeping waste out of landfills.”
The survey also indicates that the industry is relying more on technologies to make warm mix asphalt at reduced temperatures, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The survey says the technologies reduced annual carbon-dioxide emissions in 2021 by the equivalent of 17,000 passenger vehicles.
- RAP usage during the 2021 construction season is estimated to have reduced the need for 4.7 million tons (26 million barrels) of asphalt binder and more than 89 million tons of aggregate with a total estimated value of more than $3.4 billion.
- The total estimated amount of RAP stockpiled nationwide at the end of the 2021 construction season was about 137 million tons.
- Reclaiming 101 million tons of RAP for future use saved about 61.5 million cubic yards of landfill space and more than $5.1 billion in gate fees for disposal in landfills.
- The total estimated tons of reclaimed asphalt shingles – the second-leading type of recycled asphalt – used in asphalt mixtures increased 8% to an estimated 630,000 tons in 2021. But it’s still about 68% below its 2014 peak.
- The total estimated amount of RAS stockpiled nationwide at the end of the 2021 construction season was about 1.13 million tons, an 11% decrease from 2020.
- Other recycled materials commonly reported as being used in asphalt mixtures during the 2021 construction season were recycled tire rubber, blast furnace slag, steel slag, cellulose fibers, and fly ash. More than 1.3 million tons of these materials was reported as being used in nearly 9.2 million tons of asphalt mixtures by 68 companies in 32 states during the 2021 construction season.
New survey in the works
Data for the survey came from 1,388 asphalt production plants representing 261 companies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and was gathered between January and August 2022, NAPA says. The final survey report is available, along with prior annual reports, at AsphaltPavement.org/Recycling.
NAPA is now gathering data from asphalt mix producers across the country for the 2022 construction season survey on the use of recycled materials and WMA at SurveyMonkey.com/r/RMWMA_22.