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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Assessment of Using Recycled Materials for Asphalt Pavements


The public, industry and governments have become increasingly interested in green design and engineering as approaches towards better environmental quality and sustainable development. Pavement construction is one of the largest consumers of natural resources. Recycling of pavements represents an important opportunity to save the mining and use of virgin materials, conserve energy, divert materials away from landfills, and save scarce tax dollars. How much pollution, energy, natural resources, and money could be saved by using secondary materials in road construction? What are the engineering limits of using recycled materials in roads? Can we recycle over and over again pavements that contain rubber, glass, and other secondary materials? This research will quantify the environmental and economic costs and benefits of recycling asphalt pavements, and using secondary materials for their construction. The impacts will be traced through the related life-cycles and supply chains for material and energy inputs, water consumption, hazardous and non-hazardous waste generation, toxic discharges, and greenhouse gas as well as particulate matter emissions. Life-cycle environmental and economic assessment methods will be coupled with construction process models. Stakeholders will be able to use the resulting computer tool for decision-making and scenario analysis as parameters of the pavement recycling model change over time and from region to region.

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