Industry Facts About Asphalt

Asphalt, a safe, economical, and durable paving material, offers many benefits. When properly designed, built and maintained, asphalt pavement enhances vehicle safety by providing a smooth, stable and skid-resistant surface. It also saves wear and tear on vehicles.

Asphalt pavement is 100 percent recyclable, and its quality actually improves each time it is recycled as new materials are mixed with the used material. In fact, asphalt pavement is the most recycled product in the United States at 80 percent. That compares to 60 percent of aluminum cans, 56 percent of newsprint and 31 percent of glass beverage bottles. According to the EPA, 73 million tons of asphalt are recycled each year.

Thanks to cold milling and recycling, asphalt saves significantly – compared with concrete – on the readjustment of manholes, curbs and sewer drains when rehabilitating streets and roads. American taxpayers save over $300 million per year from recycling asphalt. In addition, compared to concrete, asphalt cuts road construction time, resulting in fewer traffic delays.

Economic Impact

The asphalt industry has a significant, positive effect on North Carolina’s economy. The industry is comprised of companies ranging from small driveway-paving operations to multi-million dollar construction companies that produce and place hot mix asphalt on roads, airports, parking lots, etc.

  • Road construction provides a wide variety of work for transportation planners, civil engineers, construction management executives, equipment operators, laborers and many others.
  • The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) projects that in 2001, $1.2 billion of contract work will be awarded for road construction.


While asphalt roads have provided smooth, safe travel for American motorists for more than a century, the industry still has a strong commitment to continuous improvement.

  • CAPA members are advocates of Total Quality Management. They work hard to ensure that their product is of high quality, produces smoother, longer-lasting roads for the people of North Carolina, and that workers have the equipment and authority needed to do their best work.
  • The first National Quality Initiatives Achievement Award was presented in 1995 to NCDOT and CAPA member The Mangum Group. The award focused on quality, innovation and partnerships.
  • CAPA and NCDOT have partnered to train road technicians for quality management certification, resulting in high quality, long-lasting roads.
  • As challenges arise, CAPA engineers create new mixes. For example, new long-lasting Stone Matrix Asphalt and Superpave have been developed for heavy-traffic, high-performance pavements.
  • Through the National Asphalt Pavement Association's (NAPA) Research and Education Foundation and Auburn University, the industry has established the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT). NCAT is conducting state-of-the-art research to assist the asphalt industry in its effort to constantly improve its product.
  • CAPA is actively involved with state and national agency representatives to ensure appropriate implementation of products from the $50 million Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP). The knowledge gained from SHRP research will provide long-term benefits in terms of better, lower cost roads.
  • Asphalt pavement is used because of the cost savings to taxpayers and because it is quieter to drive on compared to concrete. Throughout the United States, more and more communities are requesting asphalt and asphalt overlays – a layer of asphalt over concrete – because of its noise-absorbing qualities.


The industry is committed to a clean and safe environment for everyone.

  • The asphalt industry initiated recycling long before legislation encouraged or required it.
  • The industry saves taxpayers over $300 million a year by recycling asphalt pavements. A recent national study found that asphalt is the number one most recycled product in the United States.
  • Since July 1997, the asphalt industry has installed engineering controls that vent asphalt fume away from workers during paving operations on every highway-class paver, thereby reducing worker exposure to asphalt fumes.
  • In 1998, a partnership – between government researchers, U.S. manufacturers of pavement equipment, numerous paving contractors and labor unions representing paving workers – formed to reduce worker exposure to asphalt fumes during paving operations was a finalist for the Ford Foundation’s Innovations in American Government Award.
  • In 1999, a NORA (National Occupational Research Agenda) award was presented to the asphalt industry, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for their partnership in developing engineering controls on highway-class pavers.
  • The industry has developed techniques for “rubblizing” concrete pavement and overlaying it with asphalt, creating a pavement far more economical than and equally long lasting as concrete.


The Clayton Group Services, an independent research group in Raleigh, conducted an emissions comparison between asphalt plants and selected source categories. Its study found that emissions from an asphalt plant are comparable to those from many consumer-oriented sources, such as residential fireplaces, barbecue grills, lawn mowers, gas stations, fast-food restaurants and bakeries. Since July 1997, the asphalt industry has installed engineering controls that vent asphalt fume away from workers during paving operations on every highway-class paver, thereby reducing worker exposure to asphalt fumes. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health’s Health Effects of Occupational Exposure to Asphalt report, issued December 2000, there is no association between occupational exposure to asphalt and cancer.

Air quality

All asphalt plants must obtain a permit from the N.C. Division of Air Quality (DAQ). The DAQ reviews all applications for compliance with state and federal air quality regulations. All new, modified or relocated asphalt plants must comply with the state’s air regulations as well as rules governing odor and “fugitive” dust from haul roads and storage areas. In addition, all asphalt plants must meet air quality limits for particulate matter, such as dust. In reviewing permit applications, the DAQ’s meteorologists and engineers conduct extensive tests to determine whether the proposed facility will comply with state and federal air quality standards. The DAQ considers worst-case conditions when reviewing permit applications. If a permit is granted, the facility will conduct ongoing on-site testing to further demonstrate compliance with air quality standards. Because state and federal air quality standards are based on protection of human health, compliance with those same standards signifies that a facility presents no health risk to the public.

Water Quality

Asphalt plants have minimal impact on water quality. Asphalt plants generally do not create any industrial wastewater. Asphalt plants may need a storm water (rainwater) discharge permit from the Division of Water Quality, depending on where they are located and how they operate. During the construction of an asphalt plant, the facility must comply with state and local rules regarding sedimentation and erosion control.

Other Issues

Asphalt plants make a significant contribution to the community and are good neighbors by providing jobs, a long-lasting product that is useful in many ways and a quiet driving surface. Compliance with health-based environmental standards ensures that an asphalt plant poses no risk to the community. In addition, an asphalt plant must comply with all local land-use regulations. These requirements include zoning, setback and noise ordinances.

Source: National Asphalt Pavement Association, North Carolina Department of Commerce, Innovations in American Government, Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, North Carolina Department of Transportation, NC Division of Air Quality, NC Division of Water Quality, Greenhorne & O’Mara, Inc.