In what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind project, four companies worked to give asphalt roofing shingles a sustainable second life by using mushrooms to break them down in a technique known as mycoremediation.

Asphalt shingles and mushrooms

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 11 to 13 million tons of asphalt shingles end up in US landfills each year, where it will take upwards of 300 years for them to break down.

Global real estate and investment group Lendlease, waste and recycling digital marketplace Rubicon, early-stage cleantech mycoremediation company Mycocycle, and shingle recycling company Rockwood Sustainable Solutions teamed up to create a recycling solution after witnessing the large amount of shingle waste generated by a reroofing project in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Sara Neff, head of sustainability at Lendlease Americas, said:

Every asphalt shingle from those 214 homes would have gone to a landfill. There was simply no viable use for them. We understand the importance of reducing our Scope 3 carbon by diverting waste streams from the landfill.

After teaming up with Rubicon, Mycocycle, and Rockwood Sustainable Solutions, we came up with an innovative idea using mycoremediation technology – combining mushrooms and shingles to break down waste materials and create a new byproduct that could ideally be reintroduced for reuse, furthering a circular economy.

Shingle samples were gathered and transported to Rockwood Sustainable Solutions’ facility in Lebanon, Tennessee, where Mycocycle mixed the sample with three strains of fungi. Check out the video below to see what they did:

Earth Repair explains how mycroremediation works:

Using fungi for bioremediation and earth repair requires a large amount of mycelium. Mycelium refers to the ultra-fine and dense network of branching thread-like white hyphae that is the vegetative part of the fungi. It is the mycelia that send out the enzymes that break down chemicals, and that also act as a filter, among many other things. 

When Electrek asked about future commercialization plans, Neff replied:

We’re still in a trial phase, but we believe that this creative solution to avoiding landfill waste has the potential to transform not only how we handle waste on our own projects but also domestic manufacturing industries that could use this byproduct as an input. Because of that, we are already looking to see if mycoremediation can be effective with other waste streams.

Electrek’s Take

Hey, Electrek, why are you covering this if you’re an electric vehicle and clean energy website?

Glad you asked.

First, we like highlighting sustainable innovation. And second, electrification and sustainability – the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources by recycling and repurposing – must go hand in hand. We can’t achieve net zero with mountains of landfill everywhere.

We know our readers are concerned, for example, about the recycling of wind turbine blades. And in order to opt into more energy-efficient roofing materials, asphalt roofing shingles also need a sustainable second life. If this pilot, or other pilots like it, could eventually be rolled out at commercial scale, then we think it’s worth exploring.

Wouldn’t you rather know that your asphalt roof waste got recycled, rather than became landfill, if you opted into nailable solar shingles? (And we are all for nailable solar shingles. So there you go.)

Read more: GAF Energy to build second US nailable solar shingle factory to meet growing demand

Photo: Mycocycle

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