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Partnerships for Sustainability: A New Approach to Highway Material
A Report on the Houston Workshop

III. Group Breakout Session Activities

The intent of breakout sessions was to provide an open environment where participants were encouraged to participate in focused discussions. The breakout sessions also served to achieve consensus on the primary concerns and issues that should be addressed. Finally, the breakout sessions provided diverse groups with an opportunity to build alliances and partnerships.

Overview of Workshop Activities

The second day of the workshop began with a brief preview of the day's schedule and a review of the previous day's accomplishments, key concerns and issues. Each participant came to the workshop with some preconceived notions on issues related to sustainable materials, sustainable development, and partnerships in the use of recycled materials in transportation. The focus of the morning session was to begin to close in on specific issues that affect participants and to begin to arrive at a prioritized list of the top issues that are shared by a majority of the participants.

To encourage open discussion, individuals from the audience were asked to respond informally to three questions:

  • What do you do for a living, that is, what is your primary work function?
  • What do you do in the recycling area?
  • What recommendations would you make about recycling and futures efforts?

The following sections summarize the key points:

Mr. Gerald Malasheskie, Penn DOT

Mr. Malasheskie is a state materials engineer. His previous work included materials research. He was also one of the participants in the 1999 European Scan Tour. Mr. Malasheskie explained that Pennsylvania has evaluated a wide variety of recycled materials. Penn DOT uses recycled asphalt pavement (RAP). He noted that the state does allow foundry sand, crushed concrete in base courses, and fly ash to address alkali-silica reaction (ASR) issues. He also noted that the Penn DOT is working to develop a plan for recycling, including legislative initiatives.

Mr. Malasheskie would like to see industry devote more research and development to the use of their own recycled materials. He believes that Penn DOT could increase the use of recycled glass and tires. He commented that in some cases, standards are already in place but not being used.

Mr. Kent Barnes, Montana DOT

Mr. Barnes is a state materials engineer. He noted that recycling is not a large industry in Montana and is generally limited to recycled asphalt pavement (RAP). He also noted that the state generates more RAP than it is able to use and has to give much of it away.

His major concern is the economics of recycling. In Montana, the counties pay for the road repair but generally lack resources to address recycled materials. He would like to hear about other approaches that would help address the economics issue.

Jeff Schmitt, NY DEC

Mr. Schmidt is a state environmental specialist responsible for the N.Y. State Department of Conservation Solid and Hazardous Materials Program. Since 1992, his agency has processed over 700 beneficial use permits.

Mr. Schmitt would like to see more integration with the DOTs, a better market development process, additional testing standards and improved consensus definitions.

Mr. Merritt Linzie, MN DOT

Mr. Linzie is the Director of the Office of Environmental Services at Minnesota DOT. His state has a cooperative program with other state agencies to minimize the purchase of products that produce waste. He cites a lack of communication and publicity on the state of the practice. As things stand, opportunities to cooperate are often missed.

Mr. Matt Frazer, IN DOT

Mr. Frazer is the part-time statewide recycling coordinator for Indiana DOT. Mr. Frazer's responsibilities vary from asbestos control to training and evaluation. He currently is involved in programs for shot waste, batteries, tires, hazardous waste, and foundry sand. Mr. Frazer noted that IN DOT uses RAP and recycled concrete for road base. IN DOT also has a reasonably aggressive program to use tires for fill material.

Mr. Frazer's primary concern is the lack of outlets for waste tires. Currently the state's high-volume use for tires is fill embankments. As its infrastructure demand for new construction diminishes, the state is looking for new high-volume outlets.

Mr. Charlie Pryor, National Aggregates Association

Mr. Pryor represents the aggregates industry. His activities include research, standards evaluation, and cooperation with federal agencies. Currently, the aggregates industry produces more than 150 billion tons per year of by-product fines. The industry is also seeing the transformation towards viable recycling economics.

Mr. Pryor explained that as an industry member, he many times is challenged by undocumented scientific claims. He would like to see more effective partnerships throughout the industry as a way of ensuring that proper scientific evidence is applied to the recycling process.

Mr. Haleem Tahir, AASHTO

Mr. Haleem explained that AASHTO serves the state DOTs, including DC and Puerto Rico. He noted that one area that works very well is the promotion of standards. AASHTO coordinates research through NCHRP and other agencies. He believes that states have made progress in the use of recycled materials. Almost 80% of RAP is used today. The use of recycled glass is growing, as well as high- and low-quality fly ash, ground slag, crushed concrete, tires, and flowable slurries.

Mr. Tahir believes, however, that continued progress will require a significant cultural change. Engineers are by training cautious and slow to change. He believes that the engineers need to work more closely with the scientists to understand their different needs. He also believes that more effort needs to be focused on demonstration and high-profile projects with industry partners, including the publication and promotion of success stories.

Mr. Walter "Butch" Waidelich, FHWA

Mr. Waidelich is a FHWA Division Administrator in New Hampshire. He explained that he works with the state in providing assistance in allocating federal resources. Mr. Waidelich seeks out opportunities to implement programs on innovative materials. He is on the Advisory Board for the RMRC.

He believes that his division could be more proactive in the development of new specifications. Mr. Waidelich often hears comments from others questioning why recycled materials should be used at all. Many often express concern about the health and safety aspects of unknown materials. Much of this concern, he believes, could be diminished by more communication. He noted that even with specifications, if those charged with implementing them do not trust them, little would be accomplished.

Mr. Dale Thompson, ATSWMO

Mr. Thompson explained that ATSWMO has committees, subcommittees, and task forces that address Superfund, solid waste, pollution prevention, and other program areas. Primarily ATSWMO works on policy and information exchange between states. He also stated that ATSWMO works with U.S. EPA works to develop solid waste policies. The current focus is on foundry sand.

Mr. Thompson stated that it is very difficult to standardize a policy across state lines. The perception of risk and threat to human health is a large issue. Some advocate zero tolerance for recycled materials; others demand one hundred percent reuse. This debate frequently puts the recycled industry in the middle. In addition, the industry itself brings different perspectives to the table. Within this environment, ATSWMO works to build partnerships.

Mr. Byron Lord, FHWA Office of Pavement Technology

Mr. Lord explained that he has a wide variety of responsibilities in the pavement and materials area. He noted that he sees his job as building partnerships. This includes innovation of new technology, promotion, bridge building, research facilitation, and mentoring. Mr. Lord's office attempts to identify and improve the functionality of materials in the highway environment. He also has the responsibility to develop the FHWA's reauthorization legislation in this area. He also represents the FHWA on the Rubber Pavements Association board. He too noted that little more could be done without improving partnerships.

All attendees were then invited to make additional observations.

Management and Coordination Issues
  • Senior management generally are not involved in current recycling issues; there are no "tipping point" issues. This requires significant uphill promotion of any creative recycling initiatives. The "view from the middle" (managers) suggests that without a cultural change at the top, it will be very difficult to address the new partnerships and risk-taking that would lead to increased use of recycled materials.
  • Even with new partnerships, providers and users will need to build mutual trust. The private sector, specifically, needs to take the initiative and foster better partnerships.
  • Even though a recycled material has an engineering specification, has been extensively tested and may even be superior to virgin materials, it still may not be used in everyday applications.
  • The private sector recycling industry does not seem to be doing enough advanced R&D work prior to introducing their products to the highway community.
  • The private sector recycling industry is hampered by the need to create new initiatives every time they cross state lines.
  • Coordination is difficult when the "zero-tolerance" and "use-it-all" recycling camps are so fixed in their positions.
  • Even if public agencies do extensive work on a recycled material, they still have to promote the product to cities and counties. Many times the cities and counties do not have the technical knowledge or financial resources to apply the materials.
  • Based on the way programs are managed today, some feel we may actually be reducing the opportunities for recycled materials.
Technical Concerns
  • There is an urgent need for coordinated standards for the use of recycled products and materials, especially standards that have been agreed upon by environmental specialists and engineers. Standardization should also include consistent evaluation techniques and faster test procedures.
  • There is a strong need for more performance-based specifications in lieu of method or material specifications.
  • There is frequent misunderstanding among parties. A common dictionary of terms would be extremely beneficial to all sides.
  • Waste-tire programs continue to suffer from the lack of technology coordination.
  • There is little if any integrated technology training for the various disciplines.
Information Concerns
  • There is no easy way to transfer information and technology across state lines.
  • Waste-tire programs efforts are not shared.
  • There is limited publicity on positive recycling efforts.
  • There is a major misconception that if its recycled, it has to be cheaper than virgin material.
  • There is no "committed-to-heart" reason why the highway recycling effort is important.

After this general session, the participants were organized into separate groups, based primarily on whether they work at the national or state level. The concerns from the previous session were rearranged into seven primary categories. Each of the two groups was asked to further discuss issues in the following seven categories and reach consensus on a common agenda. The following list summarizes the seven primary categories of concern.

  1. Technology and Information Sharing
  2. Lack of Standards--General specifications, performance-based specifications, and testing speed
  3. Training
  4. Senior Management Leadership
  5. Market Identification and Development
  6. Perception Issues
  7. Financial resources

Both groups engaged in open discussion on each of the seven categories. There was overall agreement that "waste-to-use" of recycled materials is very complicated. Generally, a waste material must first meet environmental safety issues, followed by engineering economics and standards. The waste producers normally work with the state EPA to determine environmental acceptance. The producers are then basically on their own to find product markets and determine the economic and engineering expectations. While many states do have beneficial use programs, it is fair to say they are generally minimally staffed and reactive, not proactive.

If waste producers seek entry into the highway market, then they will need to present organized product material and engineering properties to highway engineers. Many times highway engineers will not be familiar with the waste product specifics, the previous environmental decisions, the product properties, the volume of available product or its variability. Unfortunately, few state DOTs have set up pro-active cooperative programs.

Conversely, many producers have little knowledge of or experience with highway materials, the testing and acceptance process, the economics, and the decision making process between the state and the contractor. Herein is the heart of the management problem.

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John Bukowski
Office of Asset Management, Pavements, and Construction
E-mail John

Updated: 02/20/2015

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration