A recycling resurgence

Roof system recycling and restoration are becoming more economical and more in demand

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 8 million tons of roofing waste are generated in the U.S. every year, with a majority going directly to landfills. As landfill tipping fees continue to rise, roofing contractors and building owners are recognizing the benefits of restoring or recycling what they previously sent to landfills. And now that most major cities require mandatory landfill diversion of construction waste, including roofing waste, design teams and corporate accounts increasingly are selecting roof membranes, as well as other building materials, based on maximizing life span and recyclability at the end of a product's service life.

Roof system restoration and recycling conserves embodied energy in manufactured products, creates a variety of jobs, and can reduce expenses of material purchase and disposal.

Diverting roofing tear-off materials from landfills can drastically reduce municipal waste loads, considering commercial roofing covers vast square footages. The 2012 International Green Construction Code supports recycling roofing waste, especially through construction and demolition language, in Section 503.1: Construction Waste Management; Section 504: Waste Management and Recycling; and Section 505.2.3: Recyclable Building Materials and Building Components. In addition, green building rating systems such as LEED,® Living Building Challenge and Green Globes have various guidelines for designing buildings with long-lasting products and diverting waste from landfills, touching on all stages of the roofing life cycle.

In 2015, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in support of Municipal Zero Waste Principles, placing waste reduction and diversion at the top of their Hierarchy of Materials Management. Many major urban areas already mandate 50 to 90 percent landfill diversion through restoration, reuse, recycling and sometimes incineration for energy-from-waste. Some cities include reduced tipping fees or other incentives for landfill diversion, or increased fees for dumping recyclable items with restrictions on what can be dumped.