Assessing the Life Cycle Benefits of Recycled Material in Road Construction

Life cycle assessments of recycled material use in roadways are currently not well understood or well documented. The Recycled Materials Resource Center’s (RMRC) research is aimed at quantitatively determining the environmental and economic benefits of using recycled material in road construction. Two case studies were performed to analyze the impacts of incorporating recycled material in the reconstruction of two major roadways using life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) tools. Results from both roads show that the use of recycled materials reduces energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and cost. Because typical roadway construction projects do not separately track the extensive use of recycled materials, the RMRC was unable to utilize the LCA and LCCA technology in the first roadway’s analysis without making significant assumptions for the inputs. To clarify and verify some of these assumptions, the second roadway project was undertaken. This second case study is being studied to determine a better methodology for data collection with fewer assumptions, in addition to assessing the benefits of recycled material use. The methodology for data collection and analysis developed through the second project can be used to conduct LCAs and LCCA for future highway construction projects with greater confidence.

Geo-Chicago 2016