More than 11 million tons of asphalt shingles enter U.S. landfills yearly. One source suggests that roofing debris may make up as much as 10% of U.S. landfills. But the difference between asphalt shingles and much of what otherwise goes in those landfills is that shingles don't decompose at the same rate. They're stuck there.

Land Fill Shortage For states like New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts, that's a problem, because they're running out of room. According to Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the state's department of environmental protection, operating landfills in Massachusetts have dropped from 170 in the late '80s to 21 today. One solution? Recycle asphalt shingles by grinding them into a substance used in paving products.

So confident is Sean Green, owner of Superior Roofing in Shirley, Mass., that shingle recycling will become widespread, if not mandatory, that two years ago he invested in a shingle recycling plant (see in Fitchburg. Green estimates that more than 100 roofing contractors now drop their tear-off waste, with metal, wood, and paper removed to facilitate ready processing.

New Model In Keene, N.H., roofing contractors regularly deliver torn-off shingles to the township. Keene began the program four years ago and has seen it grow in popularity and use. Assistant director of public works Duncan Watson says that the reason is cost: “Our gate rate is $90 per ton at the transfer station.” But by taking sorted shingles to a separate area containing a 40-yard roll off container and dumping there, local roofers pay $77 per ton. For instance, Keene roofer Ted Ferguson, owner of Ferguson Roofing, brought in a load and paid $172 to dump 2.24 tons from a job using 10 squares of shingles. He estimates that he has saved as much as $500 a week by recycling.

Recycle America charges tipping fees of $75 per ton, with discounts to regular users. Green compares that with the $110 per ton that Massachusetts roofers might pay a private waste disposal company. “The average roofer's going to save $125 to $150 per container using recycling,” he says. “Multiply that and it adds up.”