Earth Day 2015: GAF Roof Recycling

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When roofing contractors have a recycling program, it’s usually only for recycling residential shingles. But when GAF was renovating their new corporate headquarters in Parsippany, NJ, and installing a new EverGuard Extreme® TPO roof, they didn’t want the old materials to end up in a landfill.

GAF’s roofing contractor, Arco Construction Inc. from West Caldwell, NJ, was tasked with recycling the old EPDM roofing membrane and expanded polystyrene (EPS, sometimes called beadboard) and extruded polystyrene (XPS, sometimes called blueboard) insulation. The original installation had included some custom-cut and tapered sections. Typically, these smaller or custom pieces aren’t as easily recyclable. Since broken pieces of insulation are also more difficult to recycle, the crew was careful not to break pieces during the tear-off. Ultimately, they were able to successfully recycle all of the membrane and about 80-85% of the insulation, which is considered to be good in a situation like this. The tear-off process is essentially the reverse of installation and is most often done in sections depending on the schedule and the weather. If the roof is ballasted, the crew sweeps and collects thoroughly (there’s nothing worse for the membrane grinder than a rock). In GAF’s case, the ballast was used on site for landscaping. Next, the crew backs out and boxes the fasteners (which can be recycled with any metal coming off the job). Then, the membrane is cut into strips, typically 3’-4’ wide to make it easy to fold and place on a pallet (the membrane is surprisingly heavy and the pallets should typically be stacked about 3’ high to optimize trucking). The best approach for insulation is typically to stack full units of old insulation for recycling, banding and strapping them just like new units. That way, the strapped units can be craned down from the roof at the same time the new insulation is coming up, which optimizes crane time. After the pieces were loaded onto a trailer, they were tarped and trucked to the recycler. Eric Baginski, president of Arco, said they had never recycled a roof before but they were happy to do it. “It’s good for the environment and makes you feel better,” he said. As far as cost, Baginski said money is saved on the avoidance of disposal, but the process does take a little longer—so it’s a wash, cost-wise. Recycling insulation can be especially attractive from a cost point of view, because it is bulky and expensive. Baginski did note that it’s better to recycle a large commercial job and best to have a big parking lot to store the trailers the recycled materials will be shipped on.

Disposal Alternatives from Boston, MA, arranged for the recycling of the 660 cubic yards (six truckloads) of EPS and XPS insulation and 130,000 square feet (two truckloads) of EPDM generated from the building’s tear-off. Ron Gluck, president of Disposal Alternatives, said the material is used in its original form and is repurposed for non-roofing spaces. Some examples include filling in barges, curtain wall insulation, and hockey rink insulation. His company works with partners nationwide to offer commercial and residential recycling solutions to avoid filling up landfills and paying the associated fees.

As the roofing industry leader, GAF is proud to promote sustainability in all areas of our business. We practice and support new technologies in energy efficiency, material optimization, and recycling to help conserve natural resources. We also share our knowledge to help contractors, colleagues, and customers do the same.

Check out the video GAF created to train contractors on how to properly remove and prepare commercial roofing for recycling. We hope more contractors will discover how easy and beneficial it can be and apply it to their own commercial

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