Green Building Library
Waste Reduction and Recycling

Roofing Industry Moves to Recycled and Energy Saving Products

by Heidi J. Ellsworth

ENERGY STAR®, recycling, green roofs — all buzzwords in an industry that is making a transition to the world of sustainable building products. The roofing industry is on the environmental fast track. From shingle wraps that read “please recycle” to asphalt roofing recycling centers to a commitment with the new Energy Star program, roofing manufacturers and contractors are offering several different forms of earth friendly products and services.

majestic slate tiles
This roof uses 100-percent recycled Majestic Slate Tiles.

Across the country, national and local government agencies are initiating programs that give preference in specifications to recyclable building materials and promoting recycling on every level. In 1993, President Clinton adopted Executive Order 12873, which states, in part, “Consistent with the demands of efficiency and cost effectiveness, the head of each executive agency shall incorporate waste prevention and recycling in the agency's daily operations and work to increase and expand markets for recovered materials through greater federal government preference and demand for such products.” The order essentially gives preference to sustainable building products for government buildings and projects.


As noted in one of National Roofing Contractors Association's (NRCA) 1999 international seminars, recycling is taking prominence throughout the world. NRCA is currently working in conjunction with other roofing associations, including the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), to develop opportunities in asphalt shingle recycling. They have offered one forum in December 1999, bringing together paving and roofing contractors, manufacturers, processors, environmental and highway officials, equipment manufacturers, homebuilders and paving plant operators, all in hopes of developing new forms of recycling for asphalt shingles.

According to the forum brochure, “Every year, an estimated nine million tons of asphalt roofing waste ends up in our nation's landfills — at a cost of more than $400 million in disposal fees alone. Yet most manufacturing and tear-off waste from asphalt shingles and roll roofing can be economically and effectively recycled into asphalt pavement for roads and highways.”

With this kind of leadership from national associations, the roofing industry is making a substantial move toward “green.” But it has been happening on a local level for quite a while. RoofGone Inc., an Oregon-based asphalt collection facility, has been recycling roofing and construction waste since 1997. They now have two collection facilities, one in Springfield and one in Portland. They take everything from the roof and construction site — whether asphalt shingles, masonry or wood — sort it and recycle it. 

The roofing industry is also trying to reuse waste from other industries. For instance, waste from manufacturers of car hoses, shoes, tires and several other rubber products is now being directed to the manufacturing plant of EcoStar, Inc. The recycled rubber and industrial plastics are employed to make a polymer called Starloy, which is used in EcoStar's Majestic Slate Tile, a 100 percent recycled lightweight rubber slate tile.

One of the first facilities to try Majestic Slate Tile was the Pennsylvania Resource Council (PRC) building. The PRC installed the recycled roofing product on its main building. “Our mission is to educate the public and promote the use of sustainable building products throughout Pennsylvania. In sustainable building products, we look for three qualities: long life, the formulation of recycled materials and recyclability,” states Michael Kane formerly with the Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC). Kane still promotes the use of sustainable building products throughout Pennsylvania and has approvingly watched them emerge. “In the past, recycled products have been considered more expensive and substandard in quality. That has changed in the last couple of years, and I have seen that same change in roofing materials.”

“Recycled and recyclable products are gaining an edge, especially with government agencies,” notes Kerston Russell, president of EcoStar, Inc. “Historic building owners are very interested in the rubber slate tile. It is a sustainable building product that looks great and weighs considerably less. It meets their needs on multiple levels.”

The Majestic Slate Tile meets all three points of a sustainable building product. It is made of recycled industrial plastics and rubber that are obtained from several sources. The sources can range from old tires to the plastic portion of diapers. The formula and procedure to recycle the products and reformulate the raw materials was developed over 25 years ago in Canada and has been refined into today's procedure.

Other manufacturers are also meeting the recycling need, including but far from limited to Atlas Roofing Corp., Duro-Last and Classic Products

Energy Efficiency

Recyclability isn't the only concern when choosing a roofing material. Often energy efficiency tops the list of roofing requirements, and manufacturers are rushing to meet the challenge. For instance, Classic Products produces aluminum shingles. On the environmental side, aluminum shingles are recyclable and usually made of recycled materials — Classic's Rustic Shingles are made of 98% post-consumer recycled materials. The shingles also make the crossover between recyclability and energy efficiency.

“We ran our shingles through the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) to test them for energy efficiency,” said Todd Miller, president of Classic Products. “We simulated a roof and attic that was divided into two halves: one roofed with ordinary composition roofing, the other with the Rustic aluminum shingles. The temperature was monitored over a period of several weeks. The results were better than even we expected.” According to the FSEC, “The Rustic Shingle system appeared to reduce the average daily ceiling heat flow into the conditioned space by as much as 34 percent.”

The FSEC is not the only governmental agency working on energy efficiency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has developed a program to promote the use of products that help save energy. The Energy Star program awards an Energy Star label to roofing products that meet or exceed solar reflectance without compromising product quality and performance. The product must lower roof surface temperature by up to 100°F, thereby decreasing the amount of heat transferred into a building's interior.

Benefits of using products with the Energy Star label include cost and energy savings, downsized air conditioning equipment, extended roof life, decreased pollution and reduced heat island effect. EPA/DOE's Energy Star roof specifications are not restricted to any particular type of roof product. However, at least initially, EPA/DOE expects metal, single-ply membrane and roof coating products will be the most widely represented.

These energy-efficient labels are catching the notice of building owners and management. One example is a single ply roof installed by Interstate Roofing Inc. on the historic Montgomery Park Building in Portland, Oregon. 

“Montgomery Park's management presented numerous challenges,” said Jay Reid, estimator for Interstate Roofing. “They needed a roofing system that could be easily and promptly installed over the existing BUR roof and would reduce energy costs and heat gain.”

The Duro-Last Roofing System was chosen — a watertight, pre-fabricated single ply roofing membrane that wears the Energy Star label. “The energy savings issue was a significant factor in the re-roofing. The building had recently increased their population significantly. They were very concerned about raising heating and cooling costs,” continued Reid. “They saw the roofing system as a viable solution for that problem.”

A “Green” Operation 

Duro-Last not only holds an Energy Star rating, but is also active in the recycling end of the business. They have developed an in-house recycling program, in which waste created from the production of the Duro-Last Roofing system is recycled into Duro-Last Walkpads. “There is basically no waste with our product. All of our roofing systems are custom made for every roof, eliminating waste on the job site. Then all waste from the manufacturing process is recycled into our walkpads,” commented Terry Wyatt, Oregon sales representative for Duro-Last.

EcoStar also boasts an in-house recycling program. “All of our waste is ground up and re-used. We even recycle our hydraulic oils from plant machinery,” said Russell. “Companies cannot simply make green products but must make Îgreen' a part of every operation in the corporation.” 

That is the message that is permeating the roofing industry. Environmentally correct choices —whether recyclability, energy savings, extended life or an overall combination — are becoming a prominent part of the industry.

    Heidi Ellsworth is president of HJE Marketing which specializes in the roofing industry and represents EcoStar.

duro-last roof

Montgomery Park in Portland, Oregon chose Duro-Last Roofing.