Assessment and Life-Cycle Analysis of Recycled Materials for Sustainable Highway
Goulias, Dimitrios G
Aydilek, Ahmet H
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Recycled materials replacing part of virgin materials in highway applications has shown great benefits to the society and environment. Beneficial use of recycled materials can save landfill places, sparse natural resources, and energy consumed in milling and hauling virgin materials. Low price of recycled materials is favorable to cost-saving in pavement projects. Considering the availability of recycled materials in the State of Maryland (MD), four abundant recycled materials, recycled concrete aggregate (RCA), recycled asphalt pavement (RAP), foundry sand (FS), and dredged materials (DM), were studied. A survey was conducted to collect the information of current usage of the four recycled materials in States’ Department of Transportation (DOTs). Based on literature review, mechanical and environmental properties, recommendations, and suggested test standards were investigated separately for the four recycled materials in different applications. Constrains in using these materials were further studied in order to provide recommendations for the development of related MD specifications. To measure social and environmental benefits from using recycled materials, life-cycle assessment was carried out with life-cycle analysis (LCA) program, PaLATE, and green highway rating system, BEST-in-Highway. The survey results indicated the wide use of RAP and RCA in hot mix asphalt (HMA) and graded aggregate base (GAB) respectively, while FS and DM are less used in field. Environmental concerns are less, but the possibly low quality and some adverse mechanical characteristics may hinder the widely use of these recycled materials. Technical documents and current specifications provided by State DOTs are good references to the usage of these materials in MD. Literature review showed consistent results with the survey. Studies from experimental research or site tests showed satisfactory performance of these materials in highway applications, when the substitution rate, gradation, temperature, moisture, or usage of additives, etc. meet some requirements. The results from LCA revealed significant cost savings in using recycled materials. Energy and water consumption, gas emission, and hazardous waste generation generally showed reductions to some degree. Use of new recycled technologies will contribute to more sustainable highways.