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What Is Asphalt Recycling? Is It More Affordable To Use?

recycle sign | asphalt recycling

Asphalt recycling is a significant advancement in the field of construction. Far too many people, though, are still unaware of the process of asphalt recycling and whether or not it is more affordable in practice. Given that asphalt is commonly used in roadways, driveways, and parking lots, it is important to learn more about the material’s sustainable side.


What Is Asphalt Recycling?

Asphalt recycling involves reprocessing used asphalt pavement materials to produce new asphalt. This process reclaims and repurposes old asphalt from demolished structures or resurfaced roads, breaking it down and incorporating it into new pavement mixes. 


Asphalt recycling conserves natural resources and reduces environmental impact. It does this by minimizing the need for new raw materials and decreasing waste in landfills.


Recycled Asphalt vs Reclaimed Asphalt

Recycled asphalt and reclaimed asphalt are often used interchangeably. However, they do have some differences.


Recycled asphalt refers to asphalt that has been removed and reprocessed for reuse. It is typically ground into aggregate and mixed with new asphalt binder and aggregates to create a new mix. This method maintains new asphalt’s quality and performance characteristics, providing durability and longevity.


Reclaimed asphalt is removing and collecting existing asphalt pavement for reuse. This material is then crushed and screened to ensure it meets the specifications for new construction projects. 


The main difference lies in the subsequent processing, where recycled asphalt undergoes further refinement and blending. Both recycled and reclaimed asphalt promote sustainability by reducing the demand for new materials and minimizing waste.


Recycled Asphalt vs Crushed Asphalt

While recycled asphalt refers to processed and reconditioned pavement, crushed asphalt is a term used to describe the broken-down pieces of old asphalt pavement that have been mechanically crushed.


Crushed asphalt is a base material for new roadways, driveways, or construction pads. It provides a stable and durable foundation but may not offer the same smooth surface as traditional asphalt.


On the other hand, recycled asphalt involves additional processing to blend the crushed material with new asphalt binder and aggregate. This produces a new asphalt mix that can be laid down as a finished surface. This process ensures the quality and performance of the new pavement, akin to using fresh asphalt.


Both forms serve valuable purposes in construction. However, recycled asphalt offers a more refined, higher-quality end product suitable for surface applications.


Is Asphalt a Recyclable Material?

Asphalt is one of the most recyclable materials used in construction. Recycling asphalt is a common practice, with a significant portion of asphalt pavements recycled yearly.

The recyclable quality of asphalt stems from its composition, which includes aggregates (such as gravel, sand, or crushed stone) and a binder (usually bitumen). These materials can be reheated and reused.


The high recyclability of asphalt contributes to environmental sustainability. This reduces the need for new raw materials and the energy consumption associated with asphalt production.


How Do You Recycle Asphalt Pavement?

Asphalt pavement recycling involves several steps: milling, screening and crushing, mixing, and laying.


1. Milling

The first step is to remove the top layer of the asphalt pavement using a milling machine. This process grinds the pavement into small pieces, making it easier to handle and process.


2. Screening and Crushing

The milled asphalt is then transported to a processing facility. Here, workers and machines screen it to remove any large debris. After that, it is crushed into smaller, manageable pieces.


3. Mixing

The third step is to combine the crushed asphalt with the new asphalt binder and aggregates. This usually takes place in a mixing plant. This process rejuvenates the old asphalt, restoring its properties and ensuring it meets the required specifications for new pavement.


4. Laying

Finally, the recycled asphalt mix is ready for construction use. Workers and machines lay down the recycled asphalt and compact it using standard paving equipment.


What Is Recycled Asphalt Used For?

Recycled asphalt is quite versatile and has a wide range of applications in construction and infrastructure projects.

Some of the most common uses for it include:


  • Roadways. Recycled asphalt is often found in construction and road resurfacing.
  • Driveways and Parking Lots. Due to its durable and long-lasting characteristics, recycled asphalt often makes its way into driveways and parking lots.
  • Base and Sub-base Layers. Crushed recycled asphalt is frequently used as a base or sub-base material in road construction.
  • Temporary Roads. Recycled asphalt is ideal for constructing temporary roads and access paths, as it can be easily laid down and removed.

Is Recycled Asphalt Cheaper Than Gravel?

One significant advantage of recycled asphalt is its cost-effectiveness. Compared to gravel, recycled asphalt typically proves to be a more affordable option in the long term.

First, recycled asphalt typically costs less than new asphalt or gravel. This is because it utilizes reclaimed materials, reducing the need for new raw materials.


Secondly, asphalt recycling involves lower transportation costs. The process consists of sourcing locally from construction sites and projects, minimizing the expenses of transporting the material.


Finally, asphalt recycling offers longevity and durability. The material tends to form a harder and more durable surface than gravel. This reduces the need for maintenance and replacement, lowering costs in the long run.


What Is the Process for Sealing Recycled Asphalt?

sealing recycled asphalt | asphalt recycling

Sealing recycled asphalt is crucial to protect and extend its lifespan. To seal recycled asphalt, the following steps must take place: cleaning, priming, sealing, and curing.

  • Cleaning. It is important to thoroughly clean the surface of the recycled asphalt to remove dirt, debris, and other loose particles.
  • Priming. The next step is to apply a primer to the clean surface. This allows the sealant to adhere better to the surface.
  • Sealing. After priming, it is time to apply a high-quality sealant evenly. This usually involves the use of a spray or a squeegee. The sealant helps protect the asphalt from moisture, UV rays, and other environmental factors that can damage it.
  • Curing. Finally, the sealed surface must cure for a specific time, which can vary depending on the conditions and the type of sealant. However, it can take 24 to 48 hours before the surface is ready for use.

Remember that regular sealing is necessary to maintain the appearance and integrity of the asphalt surface. As such, sealing the asphalt surface every 3 to 5 years is best.

Economical and Environmentally Friendly

Asphalt recycling is vital in modern construction, offering significant environmental and economic benefits. The construction industry can reduce waste, conserve natural resources, and create durable and cost-effective new asphalt by repurposing old pavement materials.

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