How to weigh the options

By Jeff Winke

Probably one of the toughest lessons to learn growing up is delayed gratification. Kids live in the now. The future spans from moments beyond now to eternity. Planning to get something or do something tomorrow is basically an eternity.

When it comes to adopting and implementing green or environmentally-friendly practices, it can seem like much of the world functions like children… the wait for the benefits seems to take forever. Add to that the initial investment cost, a reorientation of thinking, and changing from traditional habits to a new way of functioning, one can see the resistance to going green.

Asphalt paving contractors are no different. They understand and support sustainability, but may need to justify the upfront costs in making a change. For years, paving contractors have favored pavement rehabilitation via hot in-place recycling, cold in-place recycling, full depth reclamation, stabilization of soils, and concrete pavement rubblization with an asphalt pavement overlay.

“Going green means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so unfortunately, to put a cost on ‘going green’ is nearly impossible,” stated Michael Blake, director of marketing, KM International, North Branch, Mich. “In most cases going green can be expensive up front, however the initial costs are recuperated over an extended period of time. Once those initial costs are recuperated, green technology is often considered to greatly reduce standard operating costs.

“Going green serves two main purposes to contractors. First, going green can reduce standard operating costs. Secondly, the contractor is being more environmentally conscious. As the prospect of going green continues to become more prevalent in today’s society if a contractor can successfully market that the services/products they are offering are green technology, this can help increase sales and/or gain more customers.”

Green technologies can save asphalt paving customers money.

“Thoughtful intent really does add up and the many alternative practices available are undeniable and staring us in the face,” stated Dave Price, owner, Soft Heat Manufacturing, Indianapolis, Ind. “An obvious example, hot mix asphalt (HMA) left over at the end of a work day is commonly dumped back at the asphalt plant or worse, dumped at a landfill for a disposal fee. Fuel consumed, exhaust, leaking oil, vapors, wear and tear inefficiencies, frequency of fluid changes, and more all add up along with the worker hours. Don’t forget about the resources that were used to produce the discarded hot mix which is now forever lost to the purchaser. This cold product can now be bunked up and reclaimed later for what can be profitable patches and repairs the year around. Newly available equipment can reclaim shovel ready product in as little as 5- to 7-minutes. The lost end-of-day HMA is now quickly recoverable and that is saving money, as well as making money with what had previously been considered garbage.”

Using recycled asphalt product, RAP, is a green practice that can benefit an asphalt paving contractor.

If you took all the newspapers, aluminum and steel cans, glass, and plastic bottles the U.S. recycles annually and put them on a scale, they would still weigh less than three-fourths that of reclaimed asphalt pavements. This makes asphalt America’s most recycled product according to the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA).

“RAP offers advantages,” stated Greg Harla, an owner and sales and marketing executive for Pavement Recyclers, LLC/Bagela, Shelton, Conn. “These include cost and availability and new opportunity. As far as cost goes… volume recycling of RAP, using a recycler can cost as little as $19 per ton, all in. The availability of RAP can be anytime, anywhere. In many parts of the country, plants close for the off-season. Many, many of our customers can continue to work, installing infrastructure or doing maintenance such as patching. There is also the new business opportunity. Quite a few of our customers sell material during the off season using their RAP recycler.

“A large segment of our customer base is the utility contractor. They typically install infrastructure during off-hours and off-season. Traditionally they’ve used cold patch to close the roadway. Now, with a RAP recycler they can close up a road using HMA and have confidence the material will stay in the cut for the duration. Several of our customers that strictly pave will use recycled mix for base and top with graded plant mix. By doing so, the recycled mix provides a strong base and the thinner top, icing on the cake!”

For many asphalt paving contractors, the move toward using sustainable practices is viewed in the broader perspective. Going green does not necessarily benefit one individual or customer it is seen more as a benefit to society as a whole. But with that being said contractors who make it a point to reduce their own carbon emissions or through their select subcontractors it is seen by them as a win-win for all parties involved.

“From my perspective,” Blake said, “going green serves two main purposes for contractors. First, going green can reduce standard operating costs. Secondly, the contractor is being more environmentally conscious. As the prospect of being environmentally sustainable continues to become more prevalent in today’s society, a paving contractor can successfully market that the services/products they are offering are ‘green technology’ this can help increase sales and/or gain more customers.”

Many asphalt paving contractors are experiencing cost-saving and marketing benefits from green eco-friendly practices even if they sometimes need to wait to experience the full impact.

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through