Ideal Recycling, an asphalt shingle recycling
operation in Michigan, was formed in 2006 by
partners Chris Edwards and Todd Foster, but dealing
with state regulations delayed the opening of
the recycling facility until June of 2008.
Edwards explained, “They looked at it as solid
waste. It was considered garbage.” That definition
meant that the material had to be handled differently
than something that was classified as recyclable.
Finally, the shingles were classified as “site
source separated material” which cleared the
way for the recycling to begin.
While Ideal is the first asphalt shingle recycler
in Michigan, Edwards said that there are similar
companies in 13 or 14 other states, and when
he and Foster were researching the process of
recycling shingles, they got a lot of help from
one company in Maine who is in the business.
Even government officials in Maine helped – the
head of environmental quality for the state agreed
to talk with counterparts in Michigan.
Today, Ideal is taking in shingles from about
a half-dozen local roofing companies. Edwards
said that while Ideal charges the roofers, “it’s
cheaper for them than landfills.” Another benefit
is that homeowners may prefer a contractor who
recycles over one that hauls everything to a
When the shingles come in to Ideal, employees
sort out the tar paper and other debris, and
the shingles are ground. Right now, all the material
is manually sorted, but Edwards would like to
find a way to streamline the process in the future.
Nails are removed after grinding, and the ground
shingle material is sold for use in commercial
Edwards said that other markets are possible,
including use in roadway material, cold-patch,
a road de-icer, and as dust control on unpaved
roads. But for now, state regulations limit the
use of the material. He also said that asphalt
shingle material burns cleaner than coal and
produces more BTUs. “It’s a slow process,” Edwards
said of working on changing regulations, but
“it’s been done in other states.”
Edwards said that the east coast is ahead of
Michigan in terms of recycling, because in Michigan
“it’s cheaper for the consumer to throw it away.”
But a tour of some landfills convinced Edwards
that there was too much being discarded that
could be recycled. “There’s not a lot that you
throw away that can’t be recycled.”
He also said that education is key. People have
a negative opinion of asphalt shingles that is
hard to change. “We’re fighting opinion instead
of fact.” But he admitted that before he got
into the business, he was less interested in
recycling than he is now. “It’s exciting to me
now,” he said.
However, it’s been a challenge to get some of
the contractors to understand that the shingles
aren’t garbage anymore, and need to be kept separate
at the job-site. “We have to recycle 90 percent
of what comes into our yard,” Edwards explained.
So if there’s too much trash mixed with the shingles,
it has to go to a landfill rather than be sorted
and recycled. “When we deal directly with the
roofers, the loads are cleaner,” he said.
Homeowners also play a role. Edwards said that
homeowners sometimes call him to say that they
want their shingles recycled, and he would like
to see more of that attitude in the future. However,
when a dumpster appears in a neighborhood “the
whole neighborhood thinks it a trash dumpster”
and the loads can be contaminated, even if the
homeowner and the roofer have good intentions.
Before founding Ideal, Edwards worked in the
automotive industry for 11 years, but ended up
moving from job to job as shops closed up. “Todd
was a waste hauler,” Edwards said of his business
partner. Foster had owned his own waste hauling
company, then sold it and worked for someone
else, but found that he liked being his own boss.
Looking to the future, Edwards said, “we hope
to become a full C&D recycler.”