People talk about “win-win” situations all the time, but a business that keeps asphalt shingles out of landfills and saves contractors money at the same time sounds like an ideal example.

Todd Foster (left) and Chris Edwards founded Ideal Recycling, which specializes in recycling asphalt shingles. (Photo by Scott Hilling.)

People talk about “win-win” situations all the time, but a business that keeps asphalt shingles out of landfills and saves contractors money at the same time sounds like an ideal example.

Ideal Recycling in Southfield, Mich., is on pace to keep more than 15,000 tons of asphalt shingles out of landfills this year alone. The shingles are ground up and sold to asphalt companies, which can use up to 5 percent recycled asphalt in hot asphalt mix used for paving private roads and parking lots.

A truck unloads the shingles from a residential re-roofing project. Ideal accepts asphalt shingles from homes and apartments or condos with four or fewer units.

The benefits to the environment are obvious, but the benefits to contractors are pretty clear, too. Ideal charges contractors less than they’d pay at the landfill, so they can save money while promoting themselves to customers as green businesses.

The company was founded in 2006 by Chris Edwards and Todd Foster. When Edwards, a tool and die worker in the auto industry, had his fourth employer go belly up, he decided it was time for a career change. He talked about various possibilities with Foster, a friend from high school who owned a waste hauling company.

Todd Foster and Chris Edwards survey the Ideal Recycling site. The Trommel screener can be seen at work in the background.

“When I was hauling, you’d see all of this material that would go into a landfill,” said Foster. “You see all of that material, day after day, and you think, there has to be something else you can do with this stuff. I was talking to Chris, and we decided to look into recycling. I said, ‘Let’s start our own business.’”

The pair did research on shingle recycling and found 12 other states had been doing it, so they decided to try it in Michigan. They consulted with a recycling company in Maine and put together a business plan. After finding that asphalt companies could use recycled shingles, they found a site near an asphalt factory and contracted with a company to run a grinder on the site. Environmental Wood Solutions owns the grinder and shares the site; the company recycles wood, brush and compost while Ideal recycles shingles.

Dealing with the State of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality was a necessary hurdle. “We had to prove it wasn’t a hazardous material and that it was a viable resource,” said Foster.

After the shingles are put through a grinder the pieces are loaded into a Trommel screener for sorting.

The Department of Environmental Quality currently allows the company to process 52,000 tons of shingles per year. The total is based on projections of asphalt production and the percentage of recycled material that can be used. “According to our permit, we have to recycle 90 percent of the material we bring in per year,” said Edwards. “We can only dispose of 10 percent, so we have to be careful about dirty loads.”

Benefits for Contractors

Ideal accepts asphalt roof shingles from homes and apartments or condos with four units or fewer. When a truckload of shingles comes in, the crew separates it, removing shingles, nails, aluminum and wood. Foster and Edwards work with their customers to educate them on the most efficient way to load the trucks for recycling.

Wood creates voids in the asphalt and must be kept out of the mix, so any decking that’s been removed needs to be kept out of the load or placed on top for easy removal. Once the load is cleaned, the shingles are ready to be processed. Material goes through a grinder and then a Trommel screener, which filters particles down to the correct size. From there, the material is trucked to asphalt plants across the state.

The company poses many benefits for the contractor, foremost among them the fact that it costs less to drop the shingles off at Ideal than the tipping fees at a landfill. “It’s about 25 or 30 percent cheaper than a landfill,” said Foster. “Plus, you’re dropping the load off in a cleaner environment. It’s nail-free, user friendly, and you spend less time in line. Plus, a landfill can be like a war zone - jagged metal, nails, all types of waste. Here we have a safe, clean environment.”

In the future Chris Edwards hopes to expand into recycling other construction and demolition materials.

Bottom-line savings is the key to getting contractors interested, said Edwards, but there are other benefits as well, including helping contractors show customers they are doing what they can to minimize impact on the environment.

“We help contractors who want to prove they’re green,” said Edwards. “They can prove to customers they’re environmentally friendly and they’re not just throwing the shingles in a landfill.”

In the future, Foster and Edwards hope to recycle other construction and demolition materials, including drywall and construction glass, but for right now they have all the work they can handle just processing shingles.

“We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” said Foster. “It’s a good feeling. We’re keeping all of that material out of the landfill. We have a footprint the size of a football field, and we keep that amount out of the landfill, day in and day out.”

“It takes a shingle 300 years to decompose in a landfill,” said Edwards. “We’re taking that waste and turning it into a usable product.”

For more information,