In our paving Mythconceptions article last month, we noted that one of the biggest myths floating around out there about our industry is that asphalt pavement is harmful to the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth! In reality, asphalt is probably the most eco-friendly paving material out there. Here’s why:
Asphalt is the most recycled material in America.
Each year, the asphalt industry reclaims around 100 million tons of its own product. It then turns around and reuses about 95% of that. All in all, only about 5-6% of the total production of new asphalt pavement is made from crude oil or petroleum products. Not bad! And in addition to the recycled asphalt that goes into new asphalt, other recycled items get thrown into the mix—rubber from used tires, glass, and roofing shingles, to name just a few.
Asphalt is energy efficient.
It’s estimated that in the production and construction alone, asphalt pavements use around 20% less energy than other pavements. And the energy savings don’t stop there—the traveling public tends to use less energy when driving on asphalt pavements, as well. Problem spots can be removed and replaced relatively quickly and driven on immediately, greatly lowering areas of congestion. And when fewer cars are idling on city roads and highways, they’re consuming less fuel and producing less noxious emissions.
Asphalt is good for the birds and the bees…and the fishes.
Over the last few decades, the asphalt industry has put forth lots of money and energy into ensuring asphalt production impacts the environment as little as possible. The industry even set its own emissions guidelines which not only meet, but exceed, the Environmental Protection Agency’s strict standards. Between 1970 and 1999, the asphalt industry managed to decrease emissions—including greenhouse gases—by 97%, all while increasing production by 250%. Today, the industry’s emissions are so low, the EPA considers asphalt production only a very minor source of industrial pollution.
As for the fish, Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife agencies use asphalt to line their fish hatcheries and rearing ponds. This is because, not only is asphalt non-toxic, but it also acts as a barrier to potential leaks and any foreign toxins. This is also why asphalt lines drinking water reservoirs and water pipes, and is used to construct liners and caps for landfills.
There’s a lot to feel good about when you choose to pave with asphalt. Next time you’re ready to start a new paving project, just remember—you’re doing it for the environment!