Cool Roofing

Avoiding the Landfill: The Recycling of Vinyl Roof Membranes

April 1, 2009
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
Increasing raw material costs, higher landfill tipping fees, legislation to restrict disposal of construction materials - and an architectural community that demands the lightest environmental footprint achievable - all are leading toward the mainstreaming of post-consumer recycling and the day when specifiers routinely call for recycling of roofs at the end of their service life.

Not only was the Marriott’s vinyl roof recycled when it was replaced, but also the thermal insulation, which defrayed shipping costs.


Increasing raw material costs, higher landfill tipping fees, legislation to restrict disposal of construction materials - and an architectural community that demands the lightest environmental footprint achievable - all are leading toward the mainstreaming of post-consumer recycling and the day when specifiers routinely call for recycling of roofs at the end of their service life.

Since vinyl is a roofing material demonstrated to be recyclable into new roofing products, the North American vinyl (PVC) roofing industry is conducting a feasibility study to evaluate strategies for making post-consumer recycling of its products in North America viable on a broad scale.

Incorporating lessons learned from several pilot projects in the United States and 15 years of experience by their European counterparts, the member manufacturers of the Vinyl Roofing Division of the Chemical Fabrics & Film Association are combining post-consumer recycling technologies with logistical expertise to limit vinyl’s contribution to landfill waste.

As with all recycling, the success of this initiative will depend on the motivation of the participants in the process. A sustainable post-consumer recycling strategy requires membrane recovery in the tear-down, transportation and reprocessing efficiency, and a ready customer base for the recycled product - all addressed on a large scale.

The aged roof of the University of Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena was recycled into roofing walkway membrane.

Along with the building owner or developer, the architect’s role in supporting roof recycling is pivotal. The architect can include language in the specification requiring that an existing vinyl roof membrane be recycled by the manufacturer of the replacement membrane. An additional requirement that the replacement membrane be taken back at the end of its useful life may also be considered.

The roofing contractor is central to this process, working closely with the membrane manufacturer to coordinate reclamation and assuming responsibility for membrane removal and preparation and loading for shipment according to the manufacturer’s procedures. Any long-term approach to reclaiming old roofs will need to address contractor training in the logistics of tear-off and transport for recycling instead of landfill disposal.

Slightly more handling is involved, as the contractor must separate the membrane from other waste materials to deliver a “clean” product - free of foreign materials like stone ballast and metal fasteners - to the membrane processing facility. Old membranes must be cut into strips of prescribed widths and rolled and tack welded before leaving the jobsite for the recycler.

In its pilot projects, the Vinyl Roofing Division found that the savings in disposal fees and the value of the salvaged materials generally exceeded the cost of the additional labor, shipping and grinding fees. Total net costs are dependent on total roofing square footage, the distance that the old roof must be shipped to be processed, and the avoided landfill tipping fees.

European roofing manufacturers have been recycling retired vinyl roofs into other useful products since 1994. A European Single Ply Waterproofing Association (ESWA) program, ROOFCOLLECT, coordinates the recovery and processing of post-consumer vinyl roofing membranes. With the European Commission, ESWA sets annual targets for this activity; in 2007, 13.3 million pounds of roofing membrane were recycled due to its efforts. Field reports indicate that, at 10-plus years of age, the first membranes made with recycled post-consumer material perform the same as membranes produced of virgin raw materials.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Roofing Contractor Magazine. 

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

2014 IRE Community Service Day

International Roofing Expo attendees, exhibitors and show management arrived the day before the show to roll up their sleeves and give back to the Las Vegas area by participating in the fifth annual Community Service Day. This yea's event was sponsored by Sika Sarnafil and held in conjunction with the Southern Nevada chapter of Rebuilding Together. Photos by Chris King.

Podcasts

Collis Roofing, the Residential Contractor of the Year
More Podcasts

Roofing Contractor Magazine

December 2014

2014 December

Check out the highlights from Best of Success in the December issue!
Table Of Contents Subscribe

Roofing Contractor STORE

Roofing_Construction_&_Esti.gif
Roofing Construction & Estimating

Covers sheathing and underlayment techniques, as well as secrets for installing leakproof valleys. Many estimating tips help you minimize waste, as well as insure a profit on every job.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

STAY CONNECTED

Roofing Contractor's Facebook Page twitter youtube Linked IN Google+

Best of Success

Best of SuccessTake Your Roofing Skills to the Next Level! Learn new and improved ways to run your roofing business. Click here to read more about Best of Success!