Melissa Popp No Comments

Most people know Chicaco’s O’Hare International Airport as the busiest airport in the world, it will soon be known with another distinction. O’Hare will be the first airport in the United States to use recycled asphalt roofing material as part of a new runway according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The underlay will contain two layers of asphalt underneath that will use up to 3% of oil, sand and fiber repurposed from asphalt shingles from residential roofs in the Chicago area.

The project will utilize roughly 9,500 tons of recycled material of recycled shingles into new taxiways and service roads as part of a new south airfield. The recycled material will be shredded to the consistency of coarse coffee before being added into virgin materials to make the asphalt mixture.

The city of Chicago has been working with consultants and engineers from the University of Illinois since 2012 to figure out ways to use the recycled material so it doesn’t end up in Chicago dumps. The two worked together with different ratios and materials to make sure it met certain strength and durability requirements before going to the FAA for approval on the new runway.

“It’s the right environmental thing to do,” said Jonathan Leach, chief operating officer at Chicago’s Aviation Department. He stated that the use of recycled shingles will be used in all future paving projects at both O’Hare and Midway Airport. Leach added, “The hope also is that as fuel costs rise, the recycled shingles will reduce some of our construction costs.”

The process is good for manufacturers and contractors as well, it can cost nearly $45 per ton of material to dump at a conventional waste facility while recycling centers charge only $15.

The Aviation Department estimated that O’Hare will save close to $665,000 by using the recycled material in the new runways, taxiways and service roads. That is only a small fraction of the approximately $82.5 million dollar project but officials are looking more than just to save money.

The FAA’s approval of the recycled material could open up possibilities of more use of recycled materials for further projects including blast pads, access roads and even the airport adjacent Interstate Highway 190. The new runway is expected to be open by late 2015.