Asphalt Recycling vs. Asphalt Reclaiming

We have a huge customer base that asks the question…

"What’s the difference between recycling and reclaiming?"

Asphalt recycling and reclaiming are two very different processes. Asphalt recycling is taking broken chunks of asphalt millings from an older road surface and reheating and mixing the material to a hot, usable state. With recycling you must add a small amount (usually 1-2%) of new binder (asphalt) to make the material workable and to replace oils that have dissipated or oxidized from the original material. Without this key ingredient you will end up with a dry patch material that just won’t bond. The reason that the pavement needs to be replaced is because it had oxidized and become brittle which then cracks and potholes formed. Using this pavement for recycling is a great option because most of the binder (about 5-7%) is still in the materials.

Reclaiming is a much different processes that can be a very good solution if done properly. Reclaiming is simply reheating materials in a hot box. With the equipment that is used for reclaiming there is no mixing or adding a binder (asphalt). When reclaiming, you must be very careful on the material selection that you wish to use. If you start with bad material, you will end up with bad material that is just hot.  One of the best ways to reclaim asphalt is to start with high quality mix. One solution to quality mix is to purchase hot mix from your local hot mix plant and lay out brick or cubes. When the product has cooled you can stack and store them for long periods of time and use them as your patching demands it. This gives you a high quality of mix, along with the ability to patch potholes when your hot mix plants are closed in the winter.

"What is the difference in equipment?"

Recycling equipment has much different requirements than a reclaimer. Recyclers must have the ability to heat and mix with a drum or a pugmil (arms that mix like a mortar mixer). This gives you the ability to make mix in very short time frame. Depending on the size of batch being mixed, you can produce recycled materials from as quickly as 8 mins on a ½ ton batch to 30 mins on a 4 ton batch. The other very necessary key is the ability to add new binder (asphalt) to the machine. Without the ability to add new oil to the patch material you will not produce a quality mix. You can add new binder to the material by introducing liquid asphalt or palletized asphalt to the material when it is mixing and heating.

Reclaiming is accomplished with nothing more than a heated box (hot box). There are many different types and styles of hot boxes. Trailer mounted, truck mounted, slip-in style, hook truck mounted, and skid mounted hot boxes. To reclaim, you must have a long period of time for the material to accept the heat. Unlike the recyclers that have a mixer, the hot box must transmit the heat through the material. Aggregates do not transfer heat well so we must have longer periods of heating in order to migrate the heat to the center of the unit. This usually requires 3-8 hours, depending on the size of the load and the quality of material. Most reclaimers are equipped with an electric overnight heater or an overnight timer that runs the burner system to accomplish the long, slow, even heating cycles. Many manufacturers have designed additional heating surfaces in the unit to heat the center, as well as the bottom and sides, of the unit. Units requiring additional burners are not the answer, due to the fact that you just need time, and the burner that is in the hot box is down-fired for more consistent heat. Including a second burner is only adding additional cost and maintenance to the unit; a well designed hot box has heated surfaces in the center of the unit.

The biggest difference in Recyclers and Hot Boxes is the price. Recycling equipment is a more expensive machine due to the mixing and oil additive equipment. Hot boxes range in size and configurations; they are a more affordable option.

What’s better? Recycling or reclaiming?

Both have their pros and cons.

Recyclers Pros

  • Can produce quality mix with just about any material.
  • Can produce mix in a very short time frame.
  • Most recyclers can produce custom mixes from virgin aggregate.
  • Can produce quality hot material at any time of year and with any material.
  • Requires little planning and preparing. Load the truck and start the unit.
  • Can produce high quality material for under $20.00 per ton.

Recyclers Cons

  • Price. Recycling equipment is a large investment, and you have to be able to justify the cost of the machine with the saving on material.
  • Requires a dump truck or other equipment to load the machine.

Reclaimer Pros

  • Affordable units that can be used for other patching material when they are available (hot mix and cold patch).
  • Can reclaim materials any time of year.
  • Simple to operate

Reclaimer Cons

  • Requires quality mix to produce quality patch material.
  • Slow. Usually takes 3-8 hours.
  • Unit is usually fired unattended.
  • Planning. You must plan ahead to make sure that you have enough time to reheat material.
  • Material costs. Most people buy new hot mix from the plant and lay it out to get hard and use as they need it. $50.00-$80.00 per ton, plus the cost of trucking the material to your location, plus the labor to lay it out, and then come back and pick it up and store it. Don’t forget about the fuel cost to reheat also.
  • Limited to one load per day. Because of the time to reclaim the material, you can usually only get one load per day.
  • Reclaimers cannot mix or add additive (asphalt) to the material.

Make sure to weigh all of your options when deciding on the machine that will work best for your patching needs.

At Stepp Manufacturing, we have many products that can fit your patching needs for recycling or reclaiming. Please feel free to contact us to find the right fit for you.

Stepp Mfg Co., Inc. Patching Units that Recycle

  • SMM- Stepp Master Mix- Tailgate mixer that heats a 250 pound batch in 5-7 minutes
  • SMMT- Stepp Master Mix- Trailer mixer that heats a 500 pound batch in 8-12 minutes
  • SRM10x 120– Stepp Recycler Mixer- Trailer mounted unit that mixes, heats, adds additive and sprays tacks a 1,000 pound batch in 7-15 mins. Unit is self-contained with a load conveyor, mixer, 120 gallon asphalt tank with sprayer.

Stepp Mfg Co., Inc. Patching Units that Reclaim

  • SPH- Stepp Premix Heater- 2, 3, and 4 ton trailer mounted hoppers with LP or diesel burners.
  • SPHD- Stepp Premix Heater Dump Style- 3 and 4 ton hoppers with diesel burner and oil jacketed heating system. Unit includes a truck hoist to dump material.
  • SPHOJ- Stepp Premix Heater Oil Jacketed- 3 and 4 ton hoppers with oil jacketed heat and auger discharge.
  • SSPH- Stepp Slip-in Style Premix Heater- 5.4, and 6.75 ton hoppers with LP or diesel heated system and slides into a dump truck.
  • SSPH- Slip-in Style Hot Pack- 2, 3 and 4 ton, diesel fired, oil jacketed hopper that is designed to slide into a small dump truck (15,000-26,000 GVWR)
  • STPH- Stepp Truck Mounted Premix Heater- 5.4, 6.75, 8.1 and 9.45 ton truck or hook truck mounted hopper. Diesel fired, oil jacketed auger delivery.

CALL Stepp Manufacturing for more information… 651-674-4491