Asphalt is a common road paving material used in the construction industry. Asphalt is a sticky substance derived from petroleum after the crude oil has been turned into fuels. It has waterproofing and binding properties that make it an ideal road and aircraft runway material.
When asphalt road needs to be replaced, the old material can be reused for new construction. This requires less new material, is cost-effective and creates a surface that performs as well as new material.
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Asphalt is derived from the remnants of oil and mixed with sand and stone in order to created a strong material for paving. Oil is a finite resource and often difficult and dangerous to extract. Recycling old asphalt reduces the amount of new oil byproduct needed and may reduce dependence on foreign oil. Recycling also saves on construction material waste, as the recycled material is not sent to a landfill. Energy savings are realised through less processing of virgin materials, on-site recycling capabilities and less transportation of new materials to the site.
As asphalt is derived from petroleum, its cost is susceptible to fluctuating prices in the market. Old asphalt is readily available to be pulled up or processed on site. Up to 25 per cent of asphalt material in some states is made up of recycled asphalt, and the Federal Highway Administration has research projects testing mixes of up to 50 per cent. The Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association reports that 90 million tons of asphalt are recycled annually, saving taxpayers £195 million each year. Contractors save by reducing energy, materials and waste-hauling costs. Lower quality asphalt can be used as a substitute for embankment, fill or road base material.
Recycled asphalt material can provide engineering benefits for contractors and government agencies involved in road maintenance. Recycled asphalt can be added into both "hot mix" (heated asphalt applications) and "cold mix" (cooler temperature asphalt processing and application). The Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association says that up to 25 per cent recycled asphalt is commonly added to pavement mixes that have the same quality and sometimes superior performance to asphalt made from purely virgin materials. Specialised construction equipment can process asphalt on site, saving time and transportation costs that come with taking asphalt to be recycled elsewhere. Reuse of asphalt for fill, base or embankment can save engineers and contractors time, money and materials, allowing for more efficient road maintenance projects.
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- Federal Highway Administration: Asphalt Pavement Recycling with Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP)
- American Chemical Society: What's the Stuff
- Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association: The Benefits of Using Recycled Asphalt Pavements
- Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center: Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement - Material Description