Asphalt Frequently Asked Questions 

Q:  What is the difference of reuse and recycling?

A:  According to the Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (Waste Framework Directive): ‘re-use’ means any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived; ‘recycling’ means any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations.

The following waste hierarchy shall apply as a priority order in waste prevention and management legislation and policy: 
(a) prevention; 
(b) preparing for re-use; 
(c) recycling; 
(d) other recovery, e.g. energy recovery; and 
(e) disposal.

Q: How can Asphalt Pavements help to solve serious problems of roads in Europe – congestion and maintenance?

A: According to the ‘Transport Eurobarometer’ congestion and maintenance are the major challenges for EU roads. On December, 8th 2014 the European Commission published the results of a Eurobarometer survey on the quality of transport in the EU.

The main findings of the survey revealed that respondents who use cars have a split opinion about whether the quality of road transport in the past five years has improved or not. 38% of them said it has improved, 40% that it has deteriorated, and 18% said that it remained the same. But whatever the opinion on quality, most considered congestion (60%) and maintenance (59%) to be the most serious problems about roads in Europe. These findings are even more relevant as the survey highlighted the dominance of car as a preferred mode of transport for both daily commuting (54%) and journeys over 300 km (66%). Improving road maintenance (56%) was also mentioned as the top priority for improving road safety by all respondents, closely followed by zero alcohol tolerance (49%). Learn More

The latest PIARC report (World Roads Association) from 2014 underlines the importance for maintenance, too. Learn More 

Asphalt is the best solution for maintaining roads because it is quick to pave, provides cost-efficient solutions and is durable. The visco-elastic properties of asphalt are ideal for that purpose on all types of pavement. Asphalt pavements help to reduce, or even avoid congestions. For examples and details, see facts 17, 47 and 51. 

Q: Are asphalt pavements viable for use in tunnels?

A: By far most of the world's paved roads are surfaced with asphalt, which gives good performance and durability under the most heavily trafficked conditions. Asphalt materials are therefore eminently suitable for use in the construction and surfacing of roads in tunnels, too. Asphalts give good performance and durability under the wide range of climatic and traffic conditions. More and more often asphalts are used for industrial areas or for specific applications, such as in buildings, at airports and as base courses for railway tracks and are also widely used in tunnels.

Some years ago the use of asphalt in road tunnels was discussed by many engineers in the construction industry. The background for these discussions was mostly related with safety in tunnels and the reaction to fire of asphalt. This item was also studied by PIARC Committee C5 “Road Tunnels Committee”. The conclusions of this committee are formulated the PIARC Magazine Routes Roads N° 334, 2007 in Effects of pavements on fires in road tunnels by W. LATHAWER, stating: “It is clear from all the studies and research efforts documented above, that asphalt, as a pavement material, does not add significantly to the fire size (both heat release rate and total fire load) in the case of a road tunnel fire. This is primarily true in the initial phase when (self-) evacuation must take place.

The position of PIARC in its report of 1999 (ref. 1) still remains fully valid: standard (dense) asphalt pavements do not have any significant adverse impact on safety during a fire and can be used in road tunnels”. So tunnel pavements made of asphalt are safe in case of fire, last long and are easy to maintain in case of damage. In many other important topics like skid resistance, maintenance or noise reduction asphalt seems to be the ideal material for tunnel constructions. More information click here.  

Q: What is Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA) and what are its benefits?

A:  Warm Mix Asphalt is the mix of the future. It is an asphalt that is produced and applied at a temperature around 20 - 40 °C lower than an equivalent “Hot Mix Asphalt” (HMA).
Thanks to the lower production and application temperature (around 20 - 40 °C lower than an equivalent Hot Mix Asphalt) this WMA has several advantages:
•    Asphalt workers benefits: less emissions and improved working conditions
•    Environmental benefits: less energy used and lower emissions
•    Manufacturing and paving benefits: less hardening of the bitumen and WMA is fully compatible with the use of RAP.
•    Paving operations benefits: WMA can be compacted at a lower temperature than HMA; producing WMA at HMA temperatures will permit an extended time for haulage and compaction. WMA will cool faster to ambient temperatures and therefore, the site can be opened for traffic at an earlier stage.
More information can be found on the EAPA website

Q:  Are asphalt pavements applicable for all kind of traffic areas and other applications?

A:  Yes, sure. Although asphalt is mainly used for paving roads, it can also be used for various other purposes. The versatility of asphalt makes it such a widely used material. Among others, it can be found in the following sectors:
•    Transportation (e.g. roads, railway beds or airport runways, taxiways, container terminals, bridge decks, tunnels, etc.)
•    Recreation (playgrounds, bicycle paths, running tracks, tennis courts, etc.)
•    Agriculture (barn floors, greenhouse floors, etc.)
•    Industrial (ports, landfill caps, work sites, etc.)
•    Building construction (floorings, water reservoirs, etc.)
For more information go to the EAPA website.  

Q: What are the figures of the European Asphalt Industry? 

A: Over 90% of the total European road network has an asphalt surface. Over 10,000 companies are involved in production and/or laying of asphalt. By far most of these of the companies can be classified as Small and Medium sized Enterprises. Over 4,700 production sites (asphalt plants) produce about 300 million tons of asphalt pavement material per year. The European asphalt industry employs about 180,000 people.
For more detailed figures have a look at the yearly EAPA brochure “Asphalt in Figures” on the EAPA Website

Q: What is the difference between bitumen and tar?

A: Some people still talk about tarmac of tarring a road. Since the 1990's tar is not used anymore in road building. Today’s choice for paving is bitumen. Tar is totally different from bitumen. They are both black, but tar comes from coal and bitumen from heavy crude oil. Bitumen is an inert material; it is resistant to the action of most acids, alkalis, and salts. Learn more with Advantage 30.

Q: Where can I find asphalt in my everyday life?

A: Please refer to EAPA website. Learn More 

Q: What is Asphalt Made out of? 

A: Asphalt is a mixture of aggregates, binder and filler, used for constructing and maintaining all kinds of roads, parking areas but also play-and sport areas. Learn More

Q: How is Asphalt Economical? 

A: The basis of the asphalt pavement remains for decades. Sometimes it is enough to place a thin new asphalt layer on the existing ones to retain a fully functional pavement again. Learn more with Advantage 03.

Q: How is Asphalt Safe? 

A: A study by the Swedish Road Institute concluded that the key aspects influencing road safety were surface friction, longitudinal evenness, megatexture, retro-reflectivity, surface-course porosity. Learn more with Advantage 31.

Q: How is Asphalt Comfortable?  

A: The smoothness of an asphalt surface has benefits both to the drivers and to the vehicles. Learn more with Advantage 12.

Q: How is Asphalt Sustainable? 

A: Reclaimed asphalt could be 100% used as aggregate for road construction and backfilling, but it is a precious construction material that can be better used for real recycling what means to re-use it in new asphalt mixes at the highest level. Learn more with Advantage 13.

Q: Does smooth asphalt help with the cost savings for the road user? 

A: Yes, smooth asphalt pavements contribute to fuel consumption savings. Learn more with Advantage 56.

Q: Why is Asphalt the quieter ride? Answer: Advantage 68 Sustainability

A: Asphalt surfaces can be made to be extremely quiet. Learn more with Advantage 68.