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What is an asphalt shingle made of and whats the environmental impact of making them?

Updated: Jan 19

Asphalt roofing shingles are made of a base layer of fiberglass or organic materials, such as paper or wood, that is saturated with asphalt to make it waterproof. The top layer is coated with mineral granules, which provide additional protection from the elements and give the shingles their color. Some asphalt shingles also have a layer of reflective material to help reduce heat absorption and energy costs.

The environmental impact of creating asphalt shingles can vary depending on the specific materials and manufacturing process used. Some of the potential negative impacts include:

  • Resource extraction: Asphalt shingles are made from non-renewable resources such as petroleum and natural gas, which are extracted through processes that can have negative impacts on the environment, such as drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

  • Greenhouse gas emissions: The production of asphalt shingles generates greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

  • Air pollution: The production of asphalt shingles can also generate air pollution, which can have negative impacts on human health and the environment.

  • Waste: Asphalt shingles are not biodegradable, and can take up a significant amount of space in landfills.

  • Pollution of water resources: The manufacture of asphalt shingles may result in the pollution of water resources through the release of toxic chemicals and particulate matter.

It is worth noting that some manufacturers of asphalt shingles are taking steps to reduce the environmental impacts of their products, such as using recycled materials, implementing cleaner manufacturing processes, and designing shingles that are more energy efficient.

The carbon footprint of replacing an average-sized home's roof with new asphalt shingles can vary depending on several factors such as the location of the house, the size of the roof, the materials used, and the transportation and disposal of the old shingles. According to the National Roofing Contractors Association, a typical asphalt shingle roof covering an area of around 2000 sq.ft. will require approximately 3.2 tons of asphalt shingles.

Based on a study by the Cool Roof Rating Council, the manufacturing process of 3.2 tons of asphalt shingles will generate approximately 4.5 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

It is important to note that this is just the manufacturing emissions and does not account for the transportation of materials, energy used during installation, and disposal of old roofing materials.

It is also important to consider that the lifespan of an asphalt shingle roof is usually around 15-25 years. If the roof is installed correctly, it will help reduce the energy consumption of the building and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

It is recommended to consult with a professional contractor and look for options that are energy efficient to reduce the environmental impact.

Recommended: Do I need Ice and Water Shield installed on my roof?

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