Caltrans Leads the Way in Using Environmentally
Preferable and Recycled Content Products
By Linda Fong
Chief, Office of Resource Conservation
Caltrans leads the state in using environmentally friendly and recycled products and processes. This is accomplished in a number of ways. Caltrans’ environmentally friendly business practices include using construction and demolition debris, waste tires, compost materials, pavement recycling, office recycling, and many other applications.
Construction and Demolition (C & D) Debris
Much of the C & D debris from highway projects is salvaged for reuse or made available for recycling, keeping it out of local landfills. Debris such as concrete, asphalt, and reclaimed glass can be crushed and re-used as base material. Using recycled rather than new material also reduces the strain on California’s dwindling aggregate supplies.
Guard rail can be dismantled and used again.
Steel from rebar, sign posts, light posts, and metal beam guardrail is reused or recycled. If these items are in good condition, they can be reused or stockpiled until needed. If items are damaged or found to be beyond repair, they can be recycled as scrap metal.
Clearing away vegetation in preparation for a project, as well as routine landscape maintenance activities, generates green waste that is shredded for mulch in highway landscaping.
Caltrans has established a variety of uses for waste tire products. They include rubberized asphalt concrete as a pavement alternative and shredded waste tires, which are used as lightweight fill for embankments. In addition, Caltrans uses recycled offset blocks in metal beam guardrail and recycled rubber mats for weed control underneath guardrail. When appropriate and cost-effective, rubberized asphalt concrete and aggregate made from tires are the Department’s first choice.
Caltrans uses shredded tires in highway embankments
Caltrans routinely uses bark mulch and green plant material in highway planting and erosion control projects. Additionally, several Districts have tried recycling glass, in the form of pellets, as a mulch to control weeds. Caltrans is also researching the best ways to use compost to control erosion and improve storm water quality.
Cold Foam Pavement Recycling
In a process known as Cold Foam Pavement Recycling, the Department often saves time and money by pulverizing old pavement and then remixing it for use on rehabilitated roads. This is more efficient than hauling materials to and from the job site. It also requires far less new aggregate.
Office supplies are recycled in Headquarters and the districts. Examples include white paper, colored paper, toner cartridges, cardboard, cans, and bottles.
To save paper, the CT News and California Transportation Journal are distributed to Caltrans employees by e-mail. Timesheets, which once required four sheets of paper per employee each month, are now submitted electronically. Copiers and printers have double-sided features that employees are encouraged to use, potentially reducing the needed paper supply by half.
Many of Caltrans’ 87 Safety Roadside Rest Areas are equipped with recycle bins making it convenient for the public to dispose of cans, bottles and newspapers. The Caltrans Adopt-A-Highway program has established a pilot program to separate cans and bottles from waste that is picked up along the highway. This has worked well in three pilot Districts and will be expanding to all of the Districts shortly.
Caltrans Leads the Way
Caltrans has clearly established that recycled content products and processes have a place in transportation. Caltrans is dedicated to the stewardship of natural resources and will continue to look for opportunities to expand and promote innovative uses of environmentally compatible products in transportation projects.
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