Recycling can be done on various materials. The topmost material in many roofing systems is rock. 1/2″ to 2″ diameter round river rock is used on ballasted roofs and pea gravel (1/4″ or so) is used on certain types of asphalt roofs. This rock is removed from the roof either by the roofer brooming it into bags and hauling it off or by using a vacuum truck that vacuums the rock through a large hose into a cannister on the back of the truck. Our company typically deals with vacuum truck companies and they find places to dump the rock, which is used in landscaping. If you have one of the roofs where the rocks will be removed you may be able to use the rock somewhere on the property or on another property for free.
Single ply membrane can be recycled. To do so requires the membrane (EPDM, TPO or PVC) to be clean, folded and stacked on trailers parked on the job site. Insulation can also be recycled. The issue with recycling insulation is that it needs to be whole, relatively clean and dry. The boards (typically 4′ x 8′) are stacked in the back of a trailer truck parked in the parking lot. As the trailers are filled they are replaced with empty trailers. Roofers may or may not want to recycle material. If the system is such that single-ply membrane was glued or fully adhered then the adhesive on the back of the sheet will not allow the EPDM to be recycled. Ditto for the insulation. If the insulation is mechanically fastened then the insulation boards may not be in good enough condition as it is removed to recycle. The stacking, folding and cleaning of the material is extra work for a roofing company. Roofers have to pay a recycling company to remove the material. If extra work for recycling plus the cost to the recycling company is less than it would be to put the material in a dumpster and have it hauled away then recycling is of interest to the roofer. If you as the building owner / property manager want to recycle if possible, make sure you specify that before taking bids. Talking to the roofer about recycling after the contract has been signed may well generate an increase in the cost of the job. For more information on recycling check out www.nationwidefoam.com.