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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
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|Publication Number: Date: July/August 2000|
Issue No: Vol. 64 No. 1
Date: July/August 2000
Recycling Makes Sense
Today, it seems as if almost everything can be recycled - from household items, such as glass, tin cans, and plastic bottles, to automobile tires and other car parts, electric appliances, and the bands and brackets used by orthodontists.
For thousands of years, man has been making useful products from old things, from waste materials, and from virtually every part of certain animals and plants. For example, about 2,000 years ago, the Chinese used lime-treated bones to fertilize their soil to improve the growth of crops.
However, in recent times, some environmentalists have been critical of our "consume and throwaway" society. Now, the scarcity of some natural resources, the immense problems of trash and waste disposal, and related economic issues have rekindled our awareness of the need to be innovative and efficient in our use and reuse of available resources and materials.
Here are some interesting facts about trash and recycling (compiled by Draw Enterprises Inc. at www.recyclingit.com):
Recycling is good for the environment and the preservation of limited virgin resources. It is also good for the economy. And that is becoming more and more true in the field of highway construction as well.
Five articles in this issue cover various aspects of highway-related recycling: national research projects, operations and research of the Recycled Materials Resource Center to determine additional and better ways to use recycled materials, the cultural benefits of recycling in North Carolina, lessons learned in Texas, and the scanning tour to discover why and how the Europeans are so successful in using recycled materials in highway construction.
These articles update Robing L. Schroeder's comprehensive recycling article,"The Use of Recycled Materials in Highway Construction," which was published in the Autumn 1994 issue of Public Roads. This article can be accessed in the Public Roads archives on the Web site of the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (www.fhwa.dot.gov/research/tfhrc/).
Also, the article about geosynthetic reinforced soil structures - while not specifically about recycling - covers the innovative and economical use of readily available materials in highway related construction.
The highway construction industry can effectively use large quantities of diverse materials - including blast furnace and steel slags; carpet fibers; coal ash byproducts, such as fly ash and bottom ash; glass; municipal solid waste combustion ash; recycled plastic; roofing shingle waste; and rubber tires. The use of these materials can relieve a great burden associated with waste product disposal and can potentially save a great deal of money.
Recycling in the highway construction industry just makes good sense!