In 2006, ERA initiated a research project to determine the possibility of recycling EPDM. The project, conducted jointly by Firestone Building Products Company and Carlisle SynTec Incorporated, provided the first data on the viability of recycling EPDM material, estimated costs of the recycling process and potential uses for the recycled material.

With more than 20 billion-plus square feet of EPDM installed on roofs in the United States over the past 40 years, ERA’s members recognized that a significant amount of material will be approaching the time for replacement in the future. In addition, with its noted flexibility and long-term resistance to various climactic conditions, EPDM offered an attractive option in its recycled state.

In the first phase of the project, ERA determined it was logistically viable to remove EPDM from a roof and create a product from recycled membrane. By the end of 2007, nearly one million feet of EPDM was removed, transported, ground and reused.

The material was removed from roofs with loose-laid membrane covered by ballast or mechanically fastened systems. It was then transported to a grinding facility and ground into a power-like substance. Recycled material from both Firestone and Carlisle was used to make walkway pads for new or existing roofs.

In the last few years, ERA has continued to expand the recycling program and ERA affiliate member Nationwide Foam link to 1.2 Members has been instrumental in growing this trend. As of the end of the 1st quarter 2012, more than 13.5 million square feet of EPDM membrane have been recycled since the program’s inception. That total is believed to make EPDM the leading recycled commercial roofing project in North America.

In all, roughly 3.5 million pounds of reclaimed EPDM membrane has been diverted from landfills in the first few years of the project.

Step 1: Ballast is removed and membrane is cleaned.

Step 2: Membrane is cut to smaller widths and rolled up.

Step 3: Transporter ships the rolled membrane to a grinding facility.

Step 4: Membrane is ground into a variety of sizes.