Homeowners who want to reduce pollution should look up — at their roofs.

A recent Yale study found asphalt can cause urban air pollution that’s just as bad as motor vehicle emissions.

That’s not the only issue, though. Every year, over 13 million tons of asphalt shingles are dumped into landfills.

Even new manufacturing attempts to solve the asphalt shingle roofing recycling problem are estimated to only contain about 15 percent recycled materials. And just as concerning, performance and longevity standards have yet to be proven.

In areas prone to extreme weather like hail, hurricanes, and climate-related disasters, the problem is even worse because asphalt fails under those conditions.

While asphalt shingle waste can be reused for paving roads, only 31 states currently allow for this, and it only accounts for less than 10 percent of the total asphalt shingle waste, according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Transportation report.

View of a gray-blue metal shingle roof
Metal has an unlimited lifespan because it can be recycled over and over again. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

More Sustainable Solutions

Metal is one of the only materials in the world that can be infinitely recycled without compromising its qualities.

And metal roofs also offer another environmental advantage: They save energy not only on heating and cooling but also through recycling.

According to the Metal Construction Association*, recycling decreases the amount of energy required to produce metal products like roofing. For instance, recycled aluminum requires only 5 percent of the energy required to make aluminum from raw bauxite ore. Every ton of recycled aluminum saves four tons of bauxite.

Using recycled aluminum instead of mining for new materials also reduces air pollution by an estimated 95 percent and water pollution by an estimated 97 percent.

Copper is also a building metal that’s routinely recycled, with the highest scrap value of any building metal. The scrap is melted down and reformed into new, appropriate products, including metal roofing. This re-melting process takes only an estimated 15 percent of the total energy consumed in mining, milling, smelting, and refining copper from ore.

At the end of its long life, a metal roof is 100 percent recyclable. So before choosing a metal roof, ask how much recycled content is used in it. The minimum amount of recycled content in metal roofs is 25 percent, and most have percentages that are much higher.

Bales of scrap metal ready for processing at a recycling plant
Recycling metal reduces the need for raw materials and energy for manufacturing. (shaunl via Canva.com)

How Metal Recycling Works

If you’re thinking about recycling your metal roof, here’s what you need to know. First, you’ll want to check for local metal recycling resources or ask your installer if they offer recycling services.

Once a recycling center receives the metal, sorters divide it based on quality and material type. Then to save space, the metal is compacted and then shredded or broken down into smaller pieces so it can be melted with less energy.

Steel is usually formed into blocks, and aluminum is rolled into sheets. The scrap is then melted in a large furnace, which does require some energy, but not as much as making raw materials. The metals are purified and sent to different mills to be made into new products.

View of a gable of a home with a metal roof
Metal roofs are durable, energy efficient, and require little maintenance. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Metal Roof Benefits

With proper maintenance, quality metal roofs include can last 50-plus years. Plus, many are considered “Cool Roofs.” This means they reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than traditional roofing materials, helping homeowners save on energy costs.

Unlike other roofing materials that require harsh, environmentally damaging maintenance and cleaning techniques, metal roofs require minimal maintenance and don’t require harsh chemicals for cleaning

What’s more, metal roofs are exceptionally strong and resilient. They can withstand hurricane-force winds, wildfire dangers, hail, ice, and snow with ease, making them an excellent choice for homeowners who live in areas prone to extreme weather conditions.

About the Metal Roofing Alliance

The Metal Roofing Alliance is a nonprofit trade association that helps homeowners make educated roofing decisions and connects them with expert metal roofing professionals.

If you’re ready to upgrade to a metal roof, or just want more questions answered when it comes to a metal roof, check out metalroofing.com.

*Source: Technical Brief: Recycled Content of Metal Roofing and Siding Panels, Metal Construction Association.

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