The Effects of Asphalt and Concrete on the Environment

These days it’s hard to overlook the humanity’s wish to minimize the carbon footprint. All the developed countries are trying hard to save the planet without drastically changing the conventional way of life. Starting with environmentally friendly cleaning products and eco foods and ending with refrigerants, all products are subject to scrutiny.

Asphalt and concrete haven’t escaped the inspection as well. We asked experts from an asphalt repair company to tell us about the effects asphalt and concrete can have on the environment. This information might affect the opinion of homeowners who are contemplating pavement choices.


1. Heat Island Effect

This effect describes the higher temperature in urban areas than in the surrounding rural areas. While there are numerous reasons for this phenomenon, asphalt and concrete are among the main culprits.

The overall temperature of the planet rises due to humans leaving a carbon footprint. The heat island effect leads to the world getting hotter due to such structures as roads and buildings, which trap and reflect more heat than natural surfaces.

Research has shown that asphalt and concrete have the same heating properties, thus choosing one over another, based on this information, is not reasonable. However, the latest technologies allow the production of porous asphalt. This porous material allows lowering the surface temperature in the nighttime.

The heat island effect is far from being a black and white issue. While this pavement can increase the overall temperature, it saves people from spending more money on gas by offering them smooth and obstacle-free roads.

2. Resource Depletion

Asphalt is manufactured using petroleum. Concrete needs rock, sand, and cement for road strengthening. Mining, drilling, and obtaining the above-mentioned products require plenty of resources. In the past, producing asphalt and concrete pavement was a highly resource-depleting process.

These days, numerous industry renovations and new technologies have helped minimize the depletion of resources due to reusing the existing pavement materials to create a new one.

Even though the resource depletion is not as high as it used to be, the energy it takes to produce asphalt and concrete pavements is still formidable. So it’s hard to call the process environmentally friendly.

3. Water Pollution

In order to drain the water from the asphalt pavement, the roads and parking lots need drainage networks. When water flows over the pavement and drains to the ground, it carries considerable amounts of pollutants.

The polluted water runs to the municipal sewage networks, and eventually reaches lakes and rivers. As a result, asphalt and concrete pavement may pollute our water sources.

4. Harmful Gases

Petroleum-based asphalt has a high VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) content. When the asphalt is manufactured, harmful substances are released into the atmosphere. The cement- producing process is not much different. It requires a substantial amount of energy and generates high VOC emissions.

Curing of the asphalt is even more harmful to the atmosphere. Once the paving is done, some companies use paints with high VOC content to mark roads and parking lots.

Even though asphalt and concrete have negative effects on the environment, there are some positive sides to using them such as:

  1. Asphalt is used for liner and caps constructions for landfills. It creates a barrier against potential leaks.
  2. Asphalt is used for lining drinking water reservoirs.
  3. Asphalt plants are reducing the emissions every year. Today they are considered a minor source of harmful emissions.
  4. Smooth asphalt roads reduce fuel consumption.

Cement plants are also working hard to reduce the environmental impact by using new technologies.