Asphalt and Bitumen

Most asphalt and bituminous material can be recycled, which is cheaper than reconstruction, can reduce demand for raw materials, decrease emissions output and divert useable materials from landfill.

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Why Recycle?

The majority of existing asphalt and bituminous materials can be recycled. This brings financial benefits to businesses by reducing the need to purchase raw materials as well reducing the cost of waste transport and disposal. Recycling asphalt also reduces the need to use non-renewable resources such as oil and gravel, reduces waste going to landfill, as well as reducing the emissions created through asphalt processing plants.

Almost 4 million tonnes of asphalt was disposed of (landfill and recycling) in Australia in 20051. If all of this were commercially recycled it would be the equivalent “everyday” savings of over 5 million households’ energy requirements for a month.

Environmental Benefits of Commercial Recycling for Asphalt

"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of asphalt2 recycled:

Greenhouse
greenhouse
145 km driven3
0.03 tonnes CO2e
Energy
Energy
1.3 houses' energy for a month4
2.38 GJ LHV (662 kWh)
Water
Water
5 bath tubs5
0.88 kL water
Waste
Waste
19 wheelie bins6
1.06 tonnes

For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.

Recycling Options

A number of commercial operators offer asphalt recycling or road recovery services through in-place and offsite methods. Asphalt recycling is continually developing as the benefits become more widely accepted and other options may soon become available.

What Happens When It's Recycled?

Deteriorated asphalt road materials are generally recycled through two processes, in-place recycling (both hot and cold techniques) as well as offsite recycling.

Hot in-place recycling involves softening the surface through heating and then relaying the existing road. Cold in-place recycling involves removing the road to a certain level, pulverising it, mixing it with an additive, then it is laid, compacted and resealed. This process involves no heat and results in greater energy savings.

Offsite recycling involves using recovered asphalt and remixing them at an offsite plant to be reused.

More Info & Sources

Australian Institute of Petroleum

Asphalt Recycling and Reclaiming Association

1. Hyder Consulting (2009) Waste and Recycling in Australia: Amended report. Hyder Consulting, Melbourne, p. 77
2. Data for asphalt (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
3. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
4. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
5. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity)
6. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)