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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-10-003    Date:  March/April 2010
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-10-003
Issue No: Vol. 73 No. 5
Date: March/April 2010


Guest Editorials

Recycling and Reuse in the Highway Industry

Photo of Gloria Shepherd Photo of King W. Gee
Gloria Shepherd King W. Gee

Keeping highways and associated structures in a state of good repair is critical to the Nation's ability to provide the safest, most efficient roadway system possible, while simultaneously ensuring the greatest level of protection to the human and natural environments. In many cases, the same materials used to build the original highway system can be reused to repair, reconstruct, and maintain it. For the most part, the use of recycled materials poses no threat to the air, soil, or water. What's more, careful design, engineering, and application of recycled materials can reduce or eliminate the need to search for and extract virgin materials. Therefore, where appropriate, recycling of aggregates and other highway construction materials makes sound economic, environmental, and engineering sense.

Over the past decade, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has worked to increase the use of recycled materials in highway construction and to optimize the beneficial reuse of industrial byproducts. FHWA is collaborating with a number of agencies, committees, and industry groups to promote recycling technology by providing needed specifications, best practices, design guidance, and materials testing.

For example, FHWA is partnering with the University of New Hampshire and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to operate the Recycled Materials Resource Center, which is charged with being the national point of contact for information on the uses of industrial byproduct materials. The center already has conducted more than 50 research projects and produced several specifications for recycled materials that have been adopted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The center also hosted four regional workshops on the proper reuse of industrial materials, delivered presentations to several thousand highway professionals, and began planning a major conference with ASTM International.

In addition, FHWA is working with AASHTO, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, and others in the industry to test and verify the performance of new technology to produce hot-mix asphalt at a lower temperature. By lowering the heating temperature required during the blending process, warm-mix asphalt offers the promise of fuel cost savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In partnership with the American Concrete Pavement Association, FHWA and States are looking at ways to make cement and concrete production more environmentally friendly too.

Also, FHWA is a leading partner on the Green Highways Partnership's Reuse and Recycling Team, which facilitates information sharing among States in the mid-Atlantic through the hosting of workshops and support for pilot efforts. Through a partnership with the Industrial Resources Council, which represents industries that are large generators of byproduct materials, FHWA is providing technical information on best practices for reuse of industrial byproducts in the highway industry.

And in the realm of research and technology delivery, FHWA is spearheading a number of activities related to recycling and beneficial reuse of industrial byproducts, such as recycled asphalt shingles, fly ash, spent foundry sand, taconite mine material, and steel slag. Through these and other partnerships with resource agencies and industry groups, FHWA will continue to lead and coordinate recycling activities and initiatives that will help State departments of transportation do more with less while conserving energy and natural resources.

Gloria Shepherd
Associate Administrator, Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty

Federal Highway Administration

King W. Gee

Associate Administrator, Office of Infrastructure
Federal Highway Administration



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