In the US today, there is about 1,400 square miles of low-slope roofing in place ( an area larger than the state of Rhode Island) and almost 13 billion dollars is spent annually on reroofing, which makes disposal of the old membranes a big environmental issue. Among the three single-ply membranes, TPO just like PVC is 100% recyclable, while EPDM rubber is not.
In the last few years, many TPO manufacturers have started programs to educate both roofing contractors and building owners about the benefits and the process of TPO recycling. Recycling TPO not only saves our environment by reducing our carbon footprint, it also offers financial incentives. According to Carlisle, over a 12 month period, rooftop recycling diverts over 5,000,000 pounds of old membranes from being landfilled, and saved building owners tens of thousands of dollars in waste removal fees.
Why recycling old roofing membranes is a necessity in the 21st century
The US environmental Protection Agency reports that construction waste accounts for 36% of all landfill waste. The total yearly landfill waste in the US is a staggering 100 million tons! Our landfills were simply not designed to handle this much waste and they are overloaded. In practical terms this means that waste from overloaded landfills can leach into water tables and pollute the surrounding environment. Roofing is one of the top construction materials that should be recycled because of the sheer amount of space it takes up in a landfill: tear off waste from an average commercial construction project can generate enough debris to fill up three large community swimming pools.
TPO Recycling Process
The reason why TPO is 100 % recyclable is the fact that thermoplastics can be melted, purified, and re-extruded. This makes it possible for old TPO membranes to be used again in manufacturing new TPO membranes. The recycled membranes are typically incorporated in to the bottom ply of the new membranes. Consequently there are a number of manufacturers that offer TPO membranes that contain recycled content.
For example, Firestone BP offers TPO membranes that contain 15% pre-consumer recycled content , and Johns Manville (JM) offers membranes with 5% recycled content Here is a link to JM’s TPO technical details: http://www.specjm.com/files/pdf/rs-8633-jmtpomembrane60mil.pdf.
As a roofing contractor you can help the environment by offering your clients TPO roofing that contains recycled content. If information on TPO recycled content is not readily available on the internet from a particular manufacturer, it is best to contact them directly with your questions.
Recycling Benefits for Roofing Contractors
– Provide your clients with an eco-friendly option to recycle their roof at no extra cost to you, and establish yourself as contractor with green roofing practices
– Help reduce your clients’ carbon footprints as well as earn LEED certification credits
– Recycling can be an easy and convenient process if you choose to participate in a recycling program from one of the TPO manufacturers (of course this also means that you will be installing their TPO product). For example, Carlisle Syn Tec offers a coast-to-coast recycling program for roofing contractors where they will coordinate all aspects of the recycling process, including container delivery, removal and transportation. North American Roofing offers a similar program with an added benefit of tracking all the re-roofing material from the jobsite and will provide customers data on the total number of pounds and square feet of material diverted from a landfill.
– Earn extra money by participating in a roof recycling referral program from Nationwide Foam, which available nationwide. When you recommend Nationwide Foam recycling to a client and send them a qualified lead, you get $25. Once the roof is recycled, you will receive an additional $75. You can learn more details about this referral program here.
Recycling Benefits for Building Owners
– Reduce your building’s carbon footprint
– Establish your reputation as a leader in environmentally sound business practices
– Earn credits toward LEED Certification
– With tipping fees and container costs on the rise, recycling can be a cheaper option that can save you thousands of dollars.