Urbana greenlights a go-green recycling plant

By Eli Murray

The Urbana City Council approved two permits on December 16 allowing Southwind Ras, a company specializing in asphalt shingle recycling, to build an recycling plant.

The plant, slated to be built along West Saline Court, will take the roofing shingles and recycle them for use on asphalt roads. The facility will take the shingles from housing projects and separate excess wood and metal before chopping the shingles and sending them off-site to be made into asphalt.

Rich Gerard, who spoke on behalf of Southwind Ras, said that the project adds a lot of benefits to the environment.

“Asphalt shingles are the third largest by bulk construction material that goes into a landfill … so it saves landfill space,” he said.

The shingles are composed of 27-30 percent petroleum, a high-grade aggregate, and a binder — the same materials found in paving asphalt.

Gerard said that this means there will be no wasted material. Additionally, because roofing shingles are made of high-grade material, they can be recycled into high-grade paving asphalt at a lower cost than using virgin material.

Recycling roofing shingles for use in roads has been approved by IDOT, the Illinois Tollway Authority, and many Illinois towns and cities including Chicago. The EPA also recognizes it as an environmentally friendly, green project.

Urbana’s public works director, Bill Gray, said the plant would bring benefits to the city such as reducing landfill waste and offering cheaper paving asphalt.

“This is something we have a special interest in,” Gray said, noting that Urbana already had two asphalt producers who could make use of this service.

In a plant like this, the highest cost is trucking the material off-site, said Gerard, providing a distinct benefit to local contractors.

“The closer (the plant is) the more economically viable it is,” he said.

The city council also addressed concerns that the plant may be unsightly, too noisy, dusty, or it could present a fire hazard to neighbors.

City Planner Jeff Engstrom said that the project was suited for the neighborhood, noting an asphalt plant and a waste transfer facility on the other side of Saline Court.

“It will be conducive to public use at this location. This is an area with lots of heavy industrial uses. … If it’s going to be in the city, this is the place to put it,” he said.

Of the two permits approved, the second allows Southwind Ras to build a construction-materials recycling plant south of the asphalt shingle recycling plant. Site plans for this project will be brought before city council for approval later this year.

Eli can be reached at [email protected]